Oil Market Roundup - Friday Week 4

BC-Venezuela’s-in-Crisis The-Oil-Market-Doesn’t-Care

BC-Venezuela’s-in-Crisis The-Oil-Market-Doesn’t-Care , Bloomberg

But concern about the supply of heavy crudes is apparent in the US physical market, where the price for Mars Sour WTC-MRS , a medium crude, shot to its highest since early 2011.

"The scarcity of heavy oil in the Gulf Coast will increase the price, plus the fact that you have to import from a place like Iraq, makes it a little costlier", Monaldi said.

"The US will be hurting itself if it does put these sanctions on Venezuela", said Matt Smith, director of commodity research at ClipperData.

US Baker Hughes will publish its oil rig count later in the day.

Even without new US sanctions, Venezuela's production - now about 1.2 million barrels a day - may lose a further 300,000 to 500,000 barrels a day, RBC estimates.

A sudden escalation in long-burning tensions between the United States and Venezuela could have far-reaching ramifications in the oil market, where the Bolivarian Republic remains a significant player despite its plunging output. Still, as the US hasn't yet approved any new punitive measures and President Nicolas Maduro's hold on power remains stable for now, prices remain headed for a weekly loss.

Venezuelan oil exports to the USA have declined steadily over the years, falling particularly sharply over the past decade as its production plummeted amid its long economic and political crisis.

The United States, the top importer of Venezuelan crude, is seeking to ensure that the OPEC member's oil revenue goes to opposition leader Juan Guaido, who swore himself in as interim president, and to cut off money from President Nicolas Maduro, a top US official said on Thursday. Valero and Citgo are among the largest importers of Venezuelan crude.

The Latin American nation could see crude production drop by one-third this year, analysts at Fitch Solutions said on Friday. In 2009, (OPEC) had revealed that Saudi Arabia's reserves stood at 265 billion barrels in 2009.

Venezuela's other leading oil customers are China and India. At the same time, a scarcity of heavy crude is making it more expensive and less lucrative to process.

The American Fuel & Petrochemical Manufacturers, which represents 95 percent of the refining sector, has lobbied hard over the past two years against any attempts to restrict imports of Venezuelan oil.

With the USA considering sanctions against Venezuelan crude, there's little doubt that Gulf Coast refiners would look north to Canada to fill the gap.

And Venezuela relies on United States products to keep its oil industry afloat. Even if Maduro's government is replaced, "the road back for Venezuela will be extremely arduous given the depths of the economic and humanitarian crisis", Tran and fellow RBC analyst Helima Croft wrote in a note.

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