Spain significantly increased imports of Venezuelan crude in 2019. The rise came despite the drop in the Iberian country’s oil purchases and the production decrease in the Caribbean nation.
According to data provided by Cores (Spanish Corporation of Strategic Reserves of Oil-based Products), Spain imported a total of 66,303 kilotons (kt) of oil in 2019, slightly down by 1.9% from 2018.
Nonetheless, that same year purchases of Venezuelan crude saw a significant rise. According to Cores, oil imports from this South American nation went up by 2,297 kt, or 265.20%, in 2019.
Therefore, Venezuela reports the greatest percentile increase, followed far behind by the United States (+97.60%). Even so, Venezuelan crude represents just 3.5% of Spain’s oil imports.
— CORES (@i_cores) February 7, 2020
Production decline in Venezuela
On the other hand, this rise of Venezuelan crude exports to Spain came during a year in which the OPEC member reported a significant production decline. According to the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, production in Venezuela, once a powerhouse in the sector, went down by 33% in 2019; standing at 13,000 barrels per day, its lowest in almost 75 years.
Venezuela has faced a deep and steady production decline over the past years. Non-governmental group Asociación Civil Gente del Petróleo, formed by former PDVSA workers fired nearly 20 years ago by former President Hugo Chavez, assure that the setback stems from poor management of the industry.
For its part, the Nicolas Maduro regime assures that the decrease is the consequence of sanctions imposed by the United States and other countries. However, Gente del Petróleo indicates that the measures taken by Washington could have deepened the crisis, but by no means caused it.
The United States settling accounts
In late-2019, Washington imposed several sanctions on the government of Nicolas Maduro and state-owned PDVSA. These measures limit the transactions between this Venezuelan oil company and any U.S. entity.
Additionally, the Trump administration has been encouraging other nations to join in these actions, including EU members.
In the case of Spain, the U.S. special representative for Venezuela Elliott Abrams warned in April 2019 that this year Washington could take measures that target Repsol’s activities in Venezuela. Following this announcement, Repsol announced it would temporarily suspend oil exchanges with PDVSA.
The news was discussed once again this week, when a White House official stated that the upcoming sanctions against the Maduro regime could affect several oil companies, including Repsol.
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