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Dredging Issues Delay Chevron's Heavy Oil Exports from Venezuela

Chevron's efforts to export heavy crude oil from one of its four joint ventures in Venezuela to the United States have been delayed due to a lack of dredging at Maracaibo Lake's navigation channel, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Chevron logo
Chevron logo

A dredge is often used to clear out the bed of water areas by scooping out mud, weeds, and debris so that vessels can pass through. The shallow waters in the channel caused a non-Chevron vessel carrying scrap metal to run aground in December, leading Petroboscan to instruct vessels to limit their draft after loading at the Bajo Grande oil terminal.

Maracaibo Lake's channel, located in the northwest of the country, can only accommodate tankers with a draft of up to 9.8 meters, which allows for the movement of approximately 250,000 barrels of Boscan heavy crude through the channel connecting Bajo Grande to the Caribbean Sea at a time.

Chevron Restaffing Idled Operations in Venezuela for Oil Exports

In preparation for expanding its operations in Venezuela, Chevron has begun advertising for Venezuelan contract administrators and cargo schedulers. The company is looking to restaff its long-idled marketing and trading divisions, which will handle oil exports for its own U.S. refineries and others. Chevron submitted a license request to the U.S. Treasury Department and began preparing to reanimate its joint ventures in Venezuela last year following an agreement with PDVSA. The company aims to assemble a trading team to market oil from Venezuela and increase its involvement in the four projects.

Small Tankers Transporting Venezuelan Crude to Ship-to-Ship Transfer Area

Small tankers from Bajo Grande are transporting Venezuela's western crudes to a ship-to-ship transfer area along the country's coast, filling up larger vessels. According to sources and Refinitiv Eikon tracking data, the first Chevron-chartered cargo loaded in this manner has yet to depart for the United States.

Chevron has chartered three vessels for Venezuela: the UACC Eagle, which will discharge a U.S. cargo of heavy naphtha at PDVSA's Jose port later this week; the Caribbean Voyager, which is loading 500,000 barrels of Hamaca crude for Chevron's refinery in Pascagoula, Mississippi; and the Kerala, which arrived on Tuesday in Maracaibo Lake's channel to load Boscan crude, according to shipping documents and Eikon data.

Italian Oil Firm Eni to Obtain Cargo of Venezuelan Crude

Italian oil company Eni is also planning to obtain a cargo of Venezuelan crude this month under an arrangement that began last year to receive Venezuelan oil in exchange for the repayment of the pending debt, according to a separate source.