By Irina Slav
French TotalEnergies and Norwegian Equinor will exit their oil joint venture with PDVSA, Bloomberg has reported, citing unnamed sources familiar with the matter.
TotalEnergies held a 30-percent stake in the Petrocedeno venture, and Equinor held 10 percent in the company. But now, both have transferred these stakes to the Venezuelan state-owned oil firm, according to the Bloomberg sources. The report said the news was expected to be confirmed by the Venezuelan government on Wednesday, but as of the time of writing, there was no official confirmation.
Petrocedeno operates an oil field in Venezuela’s oil heartland, the Orinoco Belt, and an upgrader that blends the heavy crude produced in the Orinoco Belt with lighter hydrocarbons to make it easier to transport.
Both TotalEnergies and Equinor have been present in Venezuela for decades. The companies stuck to Petrocedeno despite U.S. sanctions. Now, however, both companies are embarking on a course towards more renewable energy and less oil and gas, and, like others in the industry, focusing only on their best core business assets.
Venezuela, meanwhile, continues to make plans for reviving its struggling oil industry, targeting oil production of 1.5 million bpd by the end of this year. This would be a threefold increase over current production rates. Before the U.S. imposed sanctions on the oil-rich country, Venezuela pumped some 2.4 million bpd.
Last month, troubled PDVSA enjoyed a surge in oil exports as well, as traders rushed to sell Venezuelan crude—often masked as Malaysian—to Chinese buyers before the entry into effect of a new tax that would make imports costlier.
Production of crude in Venezuela also increased in June, thanks to the restart of the Petrocedeno upgrader and a blending plant.
“Without any financing, with our own money, we’ve been able to invest enough to stop the slide and start a gradual recovery,” oil minister Tareck El Aissami said in early July.