Venezuela’s state-run PDVSA and partners have halted operations at two upgraders that convert extra-heavy oil into exportable crude, and plan to stop work at two others, reports Reuters, citing several sources close to the projects. The move is aimed at easing the tanker backlog that has been delaying shipments. PDVSA earlier this month notified customers it would begin ship-to-ship transfers in an attempt to ease a bottleneck at its ports, where more than 70 vessels are waiting to load about 23m barrels of oil.
PDVSA also told clients they could not send new tankers until the ships waiting to load were serviced.
If PDVSA cannot alleviate the shipping bottleneck, the company and its joint ventures could be forced to slow or temporarily pause production at some Orinoco Belt oilfields. To avoid that, PDVSA has been taking advantage of maintenance projects at its crude upgraders, which can convert up to 620,000 barrels per day (bpd) of extra-heavy oil into exportable grades, to schedule additional work.