Venezuela’s lack of dredging causes trouble for Chevron’s heavy oil exports
HOUSTON/MARACAY, Venezuela, Jan 4 (Reuters) – A shipping channel snafu is slowing Chevron Corp’s (CVX.N) efforts to load tankers at one of its four Venezuelan joint ventures and bring heavy crude to the United States, three people familiar with the matter said on Wednesday.
Washington in November authorized the last major U.S. firm still operating in Venezuela to restore lost output and begin exporting oil as a way to encourage talks between Nicolas Maduro’s government and the country’s political opposition.
But a plan to move heavy oil quickly from inventories at the Petroboscan joint venture with state-run company PDVSA is facing delays because of lack of dredging at Maracaibo Lake’s navigation channel, the people said.
A dredge is often needed to clean out the bed of water areas by scooping out mud, weeds and rubbish so vessels can transit.
Shallow waters in the channel caused a non-Chevron-related vessel carrying scrap metal go aground in December. Petroboscan has instructed vessels since to limit their draft after loading at the Bajo Grande oil terminal.
Maracaibo Lake’s channel in the northwest of the country is suitable for loading tankers with a draft of only up to 9.8 meters, one of the people said. That means about 250,000 barrels of Boscan heavy crude can move at a time through the channel linking Bajo Grande to the Caribbean Sea.
In a sign that Chevron expects to expand operations quickly, the oil producer has begun advertising for Venezuelan contract administrators and cargo schedulers. It is recruiting to restaff long-idled operations, particularly for its marketing and trading divisions, which will handle oil exports for its own U.S. refineries and others.