18-06-2018

Two rare cargoes of Venezuela Santa Barbara crude oil imported into USGC in June

Two rare cargoes of Venezuelan light-sweet Santa Barbara crude oil totaling nearly 800,000 barrels were imported into the US Gulf Coast in the first week of June, according to US Customs Bureau data.

Related article: Venezuela crude oil output careens toward 1 million b/d

The tankers Paramount Hamilton and Paramount Helsinki delivered 500,000 barrels and 300,000 barrels of the Venezuelan grade, respectively, at Lake Charles, Louisiana, where PDVSA’s US subsidiary Citgo has its 425,000 b/d refinery of the same name.

The shipper and the consignee companies for both cargoes were not disclosed, but the data showed that the Paramount Hamilton was loaded at an offshore tanker transshipment point, while the Paramount Helsinki was loaded at the Bullen Bay, Curacao, terminal.

According to market sources these cargoes are part of the crude stored at PDVSA’s Bullen Bay storage, which was transferred by the state-led company to Citgo to prevent it to be seized by ConocoPhillips.

Confirmation from Citgo was unavailable.

ConocoPhillips has moved to seize PDVSA’s assets in the Caribbean after the US company was awarded $2 billion in compensation by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC).

The ICC decision stems from the 2007 expropriation of ConocoPhillips’ Petrozuata and Hamaca extra-heavy oil operations in Venezuela.

PDVSA has made logistical adjustments to its trade programs to guard itself from possible actions by ConocoPhillips.

A total of 1.6 million barrels of crude were stored by PDVSA in Bullen Bay, of which 1.4 million barrels were Santa Barbara, 123,000 Corocoro and 111,000 Pedernales, sources said.

The US Custom data showed that 38,985 barrels of Corocoro and 106,000 barrels of Pedernales were transported by the Paramount Helsinki vessel arriving to Louisiana on June 2.

SANTA BARBARA EXPORTS PLUMMETING

In 2017, Trafigura imported an Aframax cargo of Santa Barbara into Morgan City, Louisiana, while Natixis, imported a Panamax sized-cargo with the same grade which had El Segundo, California, as its destination, according to the US Customs data.

Santa Barbara typically has 36 API gravity and 0.95% of sulfur content, but according to the Customs data, the two cargoes imported in June have an API between 41.10 and 42.10 gravity.

In recent years, the Venezuelan light-sweet crude has been exported to Japan and China as part of loan-for-oil contracts deal signed by PDVSA with financial and institutions in such countries.

However, this year a declining production at the Santa Barbara field coupled with PDVSA’s financial problems have made difficult the supply of the Venezuelan grades to contractual clients.

According to market sources, the last time Japan imported a Suezmax-sized cargo of Santa Barbara was April 2017.

Itochu, Marubeni, Mitsubishi and Mitsui are among the trading companies that have a right to offtake Venezuelan crude oil and petroleum products from PDVSA as part of the loans provided by banking consortia led by state-owned Japan Bank for International Cooperation.

Source: Platts

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