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Chevron, the only U.S. company currently allowed to do business in Venezuela, has urged the country’s government to clean up sediment from Lake Maracaibo to make it possible to load more crude oil on tankers without risking running aground.
The cleanup, Bloomberg reports, would nearly double the amount of crude the company could export. For now, Chevron has paid for a measurement of the amount of sediment accumulated at the bottom of the lake.
If the lake gets cleaned up, Chevron could load up to 400,000 barrels of crude on its tankers, up from the current maximum of 250,000 barrels. The company, which began shipping Venezuelan crude abroad in January, supplies it to refiners in the U.S.
Venezuela’s heavy crude oil is prized by Gulf Coast refiners, who, until recently, looked to Russia’s heavy grades to replace it. Last December, it was reported that several refiners were attempting to get their hands on the rare Venezuelan crude oil.
The Biden administration eased sanctions on Venezuela to allow Chevron to resume its work in Venezuela when access to Russian heavy crude was shut off by the new sanctions.
In November, the government granted Chevron a six-month license to operate in Venezuela under its joint ventures with PDVSA there. Profits from the sale of Chevron’s Venezuelan-derived crude oil will go towards paying down its debt to Chevron and will not bolster state-run PDVSA’s profits.
Last month, Chevron was shipping crude oil from Venezuela at a rate of some 100,000 bpd, according to shipping documents, exporting around 3 million barrels for the month.
Now, other companies are also demanding licenses to operate in Venezuela, and that includes non-U.S. companies such as European Repsol and Eni—all of which have unsettled debt with Venezuela’s state oil company.
By Charles Kennedy for Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com