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Venezuela oil exports hit 4-year peak as US sanctions deadline looms

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By Marianna Parraga and Mircely Guanipa

HOUSTON, April 1 (Reuters) -Venezuela's oil exports in March rose to the highest level since early 2020 as customers rushed to complete purchases ahead of the likely expiration of a temporary U.S. license that has allowed the country to freely sell its crude, according to shipping data and documents.

Venezuela's state-run oil firm PDVSA has said it is prepared for any scenario, including the possible return of full oil sanctions when the current license expires on April 18.

Washington has signaled it could reimpose oil sanctions ahead of Venezuelan presidential elections later this year that many countries have said might not feature competitive voting.

Customers and tanker owners have been trying since February to secure Venezuela-origin cargoes in case the license is not renewed, creating a knot of vessels near Venezuela's ports, LSEG shipping data showed. Some ships have left Venezuelan waters without having loaded due to long delays.

A total of 52 ships departed from Venezuela's ports last month carrying an average of 884,935 barrels per day (bpd) of crude and refined products, and 463,000 metric tons of oil byproducts and petrochemicals, according to the data and PDVSA documents.

PDVSA and its joint ventures had previously struggled to surpass 800,000 bpd of exports due to frequent power outages, refinery problems, lack of diluents, insufficient crude output and the sanctions.

But higher demand, firmer sale prices and available inventories paved way for a 32% jump in petroleum exports last month, the documents showed. Venezuela had exported 671,138 bpd of crude and refined products in February.

Cargoes to Asia, the main destination of Venezuela's crude, rose to almost 550,000 bpd last month from 380,000 bpd in February. Most shipments were sold through little-known intermediaries that PDVSA has been working with the last four years, according to the data and documents.

U.S. oil major Chevron CVX.N, which operates several joint ventures with PDVSA and exports Venezuelan crude under an individual U.S. license granted in late 2022, shipped about 178,000 bpd of crude to the United States in March, nearly unchanged from February.

European oil companies Eni ENI.MI and Repsol REP.MC boosted receipts of Venezuelan crude to about 77,300 bpd, while political ally Cuba received 34,000 bpd.

PDVSA exported a cargo of Corocoro crude to its joint venture partner Eni, one of the documents showed, a rare grade that had not been exported since 2019 due to low output.

Venezuela recovers oil customers in March as sanctions loom https://tmsnrt.rs/3xhvOK1

Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston and Mircely Guanipa in Maracay, Venezuela; Editing by Bill Berkrot


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