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Post-blackout hangover dogs PDVSA Orinoco operations



By Argus

Petroleumworld 03 22 2019

Venezuela has restored most pre-blackout crude production but state-owned PDVSA's (PdV)Orinoco joint ventures are struggling to get operations back on track.

Crude production is currently near 950,000 b/d, the level Venezuela was pumping out before 7 March when a catastrophic power outage darkened most of the Opec country for several days. And at the main oil terminal of Jose, a backlog of tankers is slowly dissipating, with crude loadings underway by Russia´s Rosneft and China´s CNPC.

But at the strategic Jose processing complex, PdV´s PetroPiar heavy crude upgrader with Chevron and its PetroCedeño upgrader with Total and Equinor are experiencing operational problems, such as clogged pipes and excessive pressure following a forced shutdown and expedited restart. And an effort to restart the PetroMonagas upgrader with Rosneft derailed, downing the facility for now, according to PdV internal reports.

The Sinovensa crude blending facility that PdV runs with CNPC is operating at a low level because of a shortage of feedstock.

The upstream recovery remains tenuous. Power supply is still unstable, and the conditions that have fueled a long decline trend have only worsened in recent months. PdV relies on the fragile power grid for most of its operations, and structural factors such as labor flight and a lack of investment and maintenance continue to weigh on the upstream operations.

Before the blackout, PdV was already struggling against US oil sanctions imposed on 28 January. The sanctions immediately cut off US supply of naphtha, a diluent that is essential to sustaining Venezuela´s extra-heavy crude production. At Jose, most of the naphtha is stripped out and returned to the oil belt for reuse, but previous exports of diluted crude oil (DCO) have mostly dried up in favor of other grades, mainly 16°API Merey. DCO was still exported in February but none has been shipped in March so far, according to the PdV data.

The sanctions effectively cut off the US market for Venezuelan crude, prompting PdV to press for greater sales to India and China. Indian refiner Reliance has pledged to cap crude imports from Venezuela because of the sanctions, but Rosneft continues to pick up Venezuelan barrels for its Nayara refining system in Vadinar.




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