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Venezuela's oil exports down 16% in second quarter - Oil & Gas Journal

Venezuela's oil exports down 16% in second quarter

Aug 25, 2010

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 25 -- Venezuela’s oil exports dropped 16% in this year’s second quarter, largely due to increased use of domestic fuels for electric power, according to a quarterly report by the central bank.

The report showed the country’s gross domestic product down by 1.9%, led by a 2% drop in oil sector GDP.

“The behavior of this activity in the quarter is mainly due to lower crude output, which was offset by the growth in refined products to satisfy higher demand in the internal market related to the use of thermoelectric plants for energy generation,” the bank said.

The bank’s report coincided with the latest statistics from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, which said oil exports brought Venezuela revenue of around $54.2 billion in 2009, down nearly 40% from $89.1 billion in 2008.

OPEC blamed the fall in international oil prices across global markets for the country’s drop in revenue, with Venezuela's basket price for 2009 averaging $57.08/bbl, down from $86.49/bbl in 2008.

However, Venezuela’s export revenues could decline as the country plans to take advantage of its hefty reserves of oil and gas to increase its use of thermoelectric power over hydropower during the next 5 years.

Venezuela now relies on hydropower for 80% of its electricity supply, while thermoelectric plants only supply 20%. Caracas wants to bring that ratio to 50-50 by 2015, according to official media.

Electricity shortage
The Agencia Venezolana de Noticias (AVN) reported the balance is needed as Venezuela faced shortages of electricity earlier this year due to a drought that reduced the power generation at main hydropower plants.

AVN last week reported water levels at the country's main hydroelectric dam, Guri, are 3.04 m below optimum levels. The Guri plant supplies 70% of Venezuela’s electricity, but a drought brought water levels so low that the government was forced to introduce rationing across the country.

According to AVN, Venezuela aims to install 15,000 Mw of new electricity capacity over the next 5 years, of which 12,000 Mw would be generated by thermoelectric plants, while 3,000 Mw would come from new hydropower plants.

But that plan could create problems of its own. While more thermoelectric power could insulate Venezuela from electricity shortages due to drought, the use of more oil and gas could substantially reduce the country’s exports, its main source of foreign exchange.

In fact, Venezuela depends on oil for more than 90% of its export income, and a continued drop in revenues could affect its ability to meet spending and debt obligations.

PDVSA continues drilling
Meanwhile, Venezuela’s state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA this week said it began drilling in the Jusepin oil field with one of the rigs seized from Tulsa-based Helmerich & Payne Inc. earlier this year (OGJ Newsletter, July 12, 2010).

According to Venezuela’s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez, who also serves as president of PDVSA, costs at the project have fallen more than 50% to $20,000/day from $43,000/day when H&P ran it. PDVSA said the well drilled by the nationalized rig should produce 2,000 b/d of oil.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com


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