Venezuela Sees Oil Exports Rise Despite U.S. Sanctions

Venezuela’s crude oil exports rose last month despite Washington imposing new sanctions in January on several trading houses that worked with Caracas to export its oil. According to Tanker Trackers and OilX, crude oil exports from Venezuela were up in February. But Venezuela isn’t exactly transparent about its exports, and not everyone agrees that its crude oil shipments saw a rise in February.

Bloomberg reported that Venezuela’s exports had fallen to less than 420,000 bpd, down 13 percent over January, citing tanker tracking data and shipping reports that reflect the imposition of sanctions on one Maltese and one Swiss trading company for facilitating the attempts of the Maduro regime to market its oil abroad.

According to Tanker Trackers, however, Venezuela exported at least 500,000 bpd of crude oil in February, which was an increase over January.

OilX said that Venezuelan oil exports averaged 522,000 bpd in February, versus 468,000 bpd in January.

Reuters also reported higher export figures, although these included crude and fuels. According to Reuters’ data, Venezuela’s crude oil and fuel exports in February rose to 700,000 bpd, again based on ship-tracking data and documents. The report also noted that the February daily average was the highest in ten months, driven by new clients in Asia and their appetite for fuel oil.

Reuters notes Venezuela’s PDVSA has been acquiring what some are calling “phantom clients” through partnerships with entities with no track record in oil trading to circumvent U.S. sanctions, which at the end of last year extended to oil swaps.

This appears to be the latest tactic by Caracas to go around sanctions after already established moves such as ship-to-ship transfers of crude oil that then gets masked through the addition of certain chemicals to obscure its origin.

Even with these new tactics and an apparent increase in crude oil exports in February, Venezuela’s oil exports remain far below last year’s levels, not to mention the export levels before the unraveling of the Venezuelan economy during the previous oil crisis and the U.S. sanction offensive began.

By Irina Slav for Oilprice.com