By Irina Slav
Iran has delivered the fourth cargo of crude oil condensate to Venezuela since the start of this year, Reuters has reported, citing a Venezuelan member of parliament—but the condensate is causing PDVSA some quality issues that are hampering crude exports.
Condensate is vital for Venezuela’s struggling state oil company PDVSA as it has virtually no other options of importing it amid U.S. sanctions. The superlight crude is used to blend into PDVSA’s superheavy crude to make it more liquid and therefore easier to export.
The two countries—and U.S. sanction buddies—earlier this year formalized a swap deal under which Iran would continue supplying condensate to Caracas and received Venezuelan crude in return.
The deal, according to the U.S. Treasury Department, could constitute a violation of sanctions, but no steps were taken to prevent it.
Both Venezuela and Iran plan to ramp up their oil production, although Iran may have better chances of doing this if the nuclear talks with the U.S. come to fruition.
“We plan to invest $145 billion in the development of the upstream and downstream oil industry over the next four to eight years, hence I welcome the presence of domestic and foreign investors in the industry,” Javad Owji, Iran’s new oil minister, said earlier this year.
Venezuela, in the meantime, has been ramping up its oil exports, mainly to China and Malaysia, although the latter is usually only a stop along Venezuelan oil’s trip to China. In July this year, Venezuela exported over 700,000 bpd of crude.
Since then, however, exports have fallen into trouble with the quality of the crude and infrastructure issues.
Reuters reported this week that in November, Venezuela’s oil exports fell to about 570,000 bpd, as excessive water content in some export cargos caused loading delays. At the same time, the discharge of Iranian condensate is occupying essential port infrastructure, further complicating matters for PDVSA.