Venezuela chaos: Oil prices inch up with rising turmoil

Monday, 28 Jan, 2019

Oil prices were mixed on Thursday as traders looked to the possibility of US sanctions on Venezuelan oil sector and a weekly surge in USA crude stockpiles.

Even before the most recent political upheaval, the USA imported a record 4.06 million barrels of Canadian crude a day last week, while imports from Venezuela slipped 13 per cent to 523,000 barrels a day.

Sanctions against Venezuelan crude would mean the restricting flows from "two OPEC countries with barrels that are not easy to replace", says Croft.

Amid violent street protests, Venezuela's opposition Leader, Juan Guaido, declared himself interim president, winning recognition from Washington and parts of Latin America.

USA crude oil production remained near a record high level of 11.9 million barrels per day for the week ending January 18, EIA data showed on Thursday.

Rising crude output in the world's top three producing countries - the U.S., Russia, and Saudi Arabia - would also add to the glut of supply in the global market and keep downward pressure on prices, they added. The nation has seen its oil production crater in recent years, depriving the socialist republic of its lifeblood energy revenue and exacerbating a devastating economic crisis.

"Venezuelan production will decline by an additional 300,000-500,000 barrels per day (bpd) this year, but such punitive measures could expand that outage by several hundred thousand barrels", it said.

Venezuelan oil exports to the US have declined steadily over the years, falling particularly sharply over the past decade as its production plummeted amid its long economic and political crisis.

Potential U.S. sanctions against Maduro's government or serious unrest in the country could cut the country's crude exports.

Meanwhile, markets digest the latest reports of potential United States sanctions on Venezuela's crude oil exports, which could make the oil markets tighter, with the OPEC output cuts already underway.

Global oil markets are still well supplied thanks in part to a spike in U.S. output.

Any sanctions would come just as the global market for heavy crude is tightening. Venezuela's crude is so heavy it must be blended with naphtha, a liquid hydrocarbon mixture used to dilute oil so that it can be transported.

The prospects of future oil demand are getting clouded by the global growth worries, analysts said.

The response may have been delayed, but traders on Friday finally reacted to the crisis in Venezuela by causing crude prices to climb, albeit modestly, and all but completely ignored news of a spike in us production that would have normally sent prices plummeting.

'This lower oil price environment may give Trump more cushion to implement these sanctions.

"The road back for Venezuela will be extremely arduous given the depths of the economic and humanitarian disaster", she said.