By Marianna Parraga
Jan 7 (Reuters) - Venezuela's oil exports plummeted 32% last year to 1.001 million barrels per day (bpd), according to Refinitiv Eikon data and state-run PDVSA's reports, as a lack of staff and capital drove output to its lowest level in almost 75 years and U.S. sanctions shrank exports markets.
The fall would have been steeper if some of PDVSA's largest customers had not bought Venezuelan oil through intermediaries or transshipped cargoes in several hubs around the world so the country of origin was blurred, according to industry sources, vessel trackers and Eikon data. terms of customers, Russia's Rosneft ROSN.MM was the largest receiver and intermediary of Venezuelan oil with 33.5% of total exports, followed by state-run China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) CNPC.UL and its units with 11%, and Cuba's state-run Cubametales with 7%.
China emerged as the first destination for Venezuelan oil in 2019 as sanctions deprived PDVSA of its primary market, the United States. That was despite CNPC and its units halting the loading of crude at Venezuelan ports in the second half of the year.
Venezuela sent an average of 319,507 bpd to China in cargoes covering direct routes and also in vessels chartered by intermediaries that ended up reaching Chinese refiners after transshipping the oil off countries like Malaysia, the Eikon vessel tracking data showed.
The second-largest receiver of Venezuela oil last year was India with 217,739 bpd. Refining firm Reliance Industries RELI.NS suspended direct purchases from PDVSA in the second quarter, but resumed them later in 2019 after reaching a new swap deal allowing PDVSA to receive fuel cargoes in exchange.
A frozen trade relationship with the United States, which also punished Iranian oil exports last year, allowed Asia in 2019 to strengthen its position as the main destination of PDVSA's oil with China, India, Malaysia, Japan and Singapore receiving cargoes, sometimes only for blending and transshipping.
Venezuela's oil shipments to Asia averaged 647,000 bpd or 65% of total exports in 2019.
Threats to Iranian and Venezuelan oil, which along with lower output affected global supply of heavy crude, contributed to driving oil prices up more than 20% last year. But prices did not spike and they are expected to remain rangebound this year as U.S. supplies have swelled. was the third-largest destination of Venezuelan oil also through swaps allowed under U.S. sanctions. European refiners, mainly Spain's Repsol REP.MC , received an average of 118,980 bpd last year, according to the data.
The fourth largest destination was Cuba with 70,359 bpd, a number below the average of recent years, but still high considering that other Caribbean nations stopped receiving Venezuelan oil even before sanctions hit, due to PDVSA's declining output.
PDVSA did not reply to a request for comment.
(For a graphic of monthly oil exports and destinations, click on https://tmsnrt.rs/2ukxKkp)
OPEC-member Venezuela produced 1.01 million bpd of crude from January through November according to official numbers, its lowest annual average in almost 75 years.
(For a graphic on declining output, click on https://tmsnrt.rs/2SNPoam)
Former PDVSA executives and union leaders attribute the slump to a lack of capital and a recent exodus of about 30,000 workers, around a quarter of total staff reported in 2016, the last year the firm published its annual report. and its joint ventures in 2019 struggled to export oil that had accumulated in storage tanks amid a shrinking portfolio of customers due to the sanctions announced by Washington a year ago to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro.
The mounting stocks forced the firm to cut back output while converting oil upgraders into blending stations designed for producing the crude grades demanded by Asian clients. imported an average of 155,674 bpd of fuel and diluent naphtha in 2019, in line with recent years but too little to cover the gap left by PDVSA's very low domestic refining, resulting in intermittent shortages of motor fuel during the year.
In December, when imports fell to some 125,000 bpd according to the data, the shortage worsened leaving long lines of drivers waiting for gasoline in front stations in the country with the world's largest crude reserves. GRAPHIC-Venezuela's 2019 oil exports drop amid sanctions
https://tmsnrt.rs/2ukxKkp GRAPHIC-The rapid decline of Venezuela's crude output
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