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Venezuela's Orinoco Belt crude output drops to 235,000 b/d; lowest since September 2019

Highlights

Storage limitations, lack of light crude for diluent

Petrolera Sinovensa, Petropiar, Pemonagas cut production of diluted crudes

Light crude diverted to El Palito refinery for gasoline production

Caracas — The production of crude by Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA and its partners in the Orinoco Belt fell to 235,000 b/d, or 18% of the region's maximum 1.3 million b/d capacity, on May 26, due to storage limitations and the lack of light crude to dilute the region's extra heavy crudes, according to a technical report reviewed by S&P Global Platts.

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It was the lowest production level registered for the Orinoco Belt since September 2019, when output dropped to 233,000 b/d owing to massive power blackouts in Venezuela. The April average output was at 390,000 b/d.

On April 28, a high voltage electrical failure caused an oil spill in the storage tanks of the Morichal Operations Center. The accident also affected production in the Carabobo block of the Orinoco Belt operated by Petrolera Sinovensa, owned 60% by PDVSA and 40% by CNPC, forcing the unscheduled closing of 212 wells, according to previous technical reports.

On May 19, Petrolera Sinovensa's production was restored, however, some storage tanks at the Morichal Operations Center remained out of service after the accident as they have not been repaired.

Additionally, the storage capacity for crude at the Jose terminal to the north of Anzoategui state has been maxed out as Venezuelan crude finds no buyers amid the US sanctions.

In the report, there were no figures for the amounts of crude currently being stored at Morichal and Jose.

Production in the Orinoco Belt is also being affected by the lack of available Mesa 30 light crude with which to dilute the Orinoco Belt's extra heavy crudes.

According to the report, an important volume of Mesa 30 crude is being delivered to the El Palito refinery to help PDVSA in its efforts to reactivate units to produce gasoline and alleviate an acute shortage of the fuel in the South American country, which was once an important exporter of crudes and refined products.

The El Palito refinery has been shut down for many months due to deterioration and the lack of maintenance of its units, in addition to the scarcity of light crudes that PDVSA uses to dilute heavy oil. The US sanctions include the prohibition of imports of heavy naphtha and light crude from other countries.

Since May 23, Venezuela has received four tanker loads of five scheduled gasoline and alkylates cargoes sent by Iran under terms of a government-to-government agreement.

ORINOCO BELT PRODUCTION

According to the technical report dated May 26, crude production in the Carabobo block currently was 87,000 b/d. The Ayacucho block is now producing 110,000 b/d. The Junin block is now at 27,000 b/d, and the Boyaca block at 11,000 b/d.

In the Carabobo block, the joint venture Petrolera Sinovensa, with a maximum capacity at 105.000 b/d, was operating at 36,000 b/d, or 34.3% capacity. The JV Petromonagas, with PDVSA owning 60% and Rosneft 40%, also located in Carabobo Block, was operating at 30,000 b/d, or 25% of its 120,000 b/d capacity. The Morichal field, fully owned by PDVSA, was producing 20,000 b/d.

In Ayacucho block, the JV Petropiar, with PDVSA owning 60% and Chevron 40%, was producing at 55,000 b/d, or 29% of its 190,000 b/d capacity. The San Tome field, fully owned by PDVSA, was producing 55,000 b/d.

At Junin block, the 202,000 b/d JV Petrocedeno, owned 60% by PDVSA and 40% by Total/Equinor, was now producing only 4,000 b/d, and the 120,000 b/d Petro San Felix, fully owned by PDVSA, was producing just 10,000 b/d, according to the technical report.

PDVSA and its foreign partners have joint ventures in the four main blocks into which the Orinoco Belt is divided -- Carabobo, Ayacucho, Junin and Boyaca.

In these blocks, PDVSA has formed seven joint ventures -- Petrodelta, Petroritupano, Petrolera IndoVenezolana, Petrolera Sinovensa, Petrocedeno, Petropiar and Petromonagas. Nine additional ventures are in development -- Petroindependencia, Petrocarabobo, Petrojunin, Petromacareo, Petrourica, Petromiranda, Petrovictoria, Boyaca 8 and Junin 10.

PDVSA could not be reached immediately for comment, and PDVSA's foreign partners are not authorized to comment to the press.

Cash-strapped Venezuela saw its crude output fall to 620,000 b/d in April, according to the latest Platts survey of OPEC production.

Source: Orinoco Belt production technical report