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India set to strike oil barter deal with Venezuela

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India set to strike oil barter deal with Venezuela

New Delhi — India will strike a barter deal with Venezuela to settle past dues of $530-$600 million payable for its oil equity in the Latin American nation, a senior official at state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp said Thursday.

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ONGC Videsh Limited, the overseas arm of upstream major ONGC, has a 40% stake in the San Cristobal oil field in Venezuela. The dues included its accumulated share of oil sales.

"They [Venezuela's PDVSA] would be giving us crude every month," ONGC chairman and managing director D K Sarraf, who is also chairman of OVL, said after releasing ONGC's results for the second fiscal quarter (July-September).

In July, Indian oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan raised the issue of barter deal with his Venezuelan counterpart Eulogio del Pino during his visit to the Indian capital.

Article Continues below...

"Based on the discussions three months ago with the Venezuelan team, an agreement is being finalized," Sarraf said, and hoped that the barter deal would be finalized "very soon."

In 2008, OVL invested around $190 million in the project where PDVSA holds a 60% stake.

Sarraf declined to give specific details related to the monthly quantity of Venezuelan crude to be imported as part of the deal and the timeline to square off the outstanding dues by saying minute details were still being worked out.

"By utilizing those quantity [to be finalized], we would be able to recover the debts," Sarraf said, adding the squaring off the dues would take couple of years.

In fiscal year 2015-16 (April-March), India imported 23.6 million mt of crude from Venezuela, accounting for 12% of the country's crude imports.

OVL and state-run Indian Oil Corp. also have stakes in Venezuela's Carabobo-1 project, located around 440 kilometers southeast of Caracas. Venezuela was the third-largest crude supplier to India in the January-May period.

But the share has fallen over that period as the economic situation deteriorated in the Latin American country where inflation touched alarming levels.

Latest data from the US Energy Information Administration showed Venezuela's third-quarter 2016 crude production dropping 12% year on year to 2.11 million b/d.

Analysts said the prospects for a default in 2017 by PDVSA would depend on how much flexibility the troubled state-owned oil company negotiates with bond holders in a multi-billion dollar debt swap closing in October.

Venezuela's oil exports have been falling slower than its production because of a sharp drop in domestic demand and the country's dependence on imported diluents and oil products for the domestic market.

--Ratnajyoti Dutta,
--Edited by Irene Tang,