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Venezuelan petrochemicals enter US despite trade sanctions

U.S.A.Venezuelan petrochemicals enter US despite trade sanctions

At least two shipments of methanol, a widely used industrial product whose prices have skyrocketed this year, have landed at ports near Houston (Photo: Reuters)

Venezuelan petrochemicals produced by joint ventures between the state chemical Pequiven and foreign partners have entered the United States, despite Washington’s efforts to limit trade with the OPEC partner country.

According to an investigation by the agency Reuters, at least of methanol shipment, a widely used industrial product whose prices have skyrocketed this year, The South American country’s global petrochemical sales have been unloaded at ports near Houston since October amid a rapid expansion, according to tracking data from tankers and United States Customs.

represent the shipment A new effort by Venezuela to increase its income despite United States sanctions on its oil industry, so far unreported, which pushed crude oil exports to the lowest level in 77 years.

The sanctions were designed to pressure the removal of Nicolas Maduro from power., Whose last election is considered a sham.

Mitsubishi Corp will resume methanol exports to the United States from its Venezuelan joint venture Metor in 2021 after a nearly two-year suspension, it said. Reuters A Mitsubishi spokesperson. Metor’s shareholders include Petroquimica de Venezuela or Pequiven.

The shipments represent a new effort by Venezuela, which has so far not been reported, to increase its revenue despite United States sanctions on its oil industry (Photo: Reuters/Carlos García Rollins)
The shipments represent a new effort by Venezuela, which has so far not been reported, to increase its revenue despite United States sanctions on its oil industry (Photo: Reuters/Carlos García Rollins)

Venezuela’s main oil terminal, Jose, was listed as the point of origin in US customs records for one of the two methanol shipments, but both tankers sailed directly from Venezuela., Refinitiv Eikon tracking data shown.

The names of the buyers and sellers of the two shipments that arrived in Houston were erased from US customs data., and provided Reuters by the consulting firm IHSMarkit.

extension of restrictions

A US decree in 2019 subjected Venezuela’s oil industry to sanctions And it was used to add state oil company PDVSA and its subsidiaries to a list of entities approved by the Treasury Department. A later order expanded the restrictions to cover companies owned or controlled by the government. Pequiven and the state of Venezuela’s petrochemical operations were not specifically designated.

Refinery workers walk down the stairs of an oil tank at PDVSA's El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello
Refinery workers walk down the stairs of an oil tank at PDVSA’s El Palito refinery in Puerto Cabello

,Meter itself should not be subject to punishment“said Daniel Pilarsky, a partner at New York-based law firm Watson Farley & Williams LLP, which specializes in cross-border transactions and US trade sanctions.

“Even then, If Pequiven was the one that initially produced the methanol, there could be a risk that any shipment to the United States would be treated as an indirect receipt of goods from Pequiven, which would be a violation, even if Pequiven was never paid. do not meetPilarsky said.

Companies that export Venezuelan methanol to the United States may have a license from the United States Treasury to allow trade or Has taken other steps to ensure that Pequiven is not treated as an indirect sellerPilarsky added.

NS methanol, produced from natural gas in Venezuela, Can be found in everyday products such as gasoline, paint, carpet and plastics, According to IHSMarkit, US imports have outpaced exports in recent years.

October 7-11, tanker PVT Aurora discharged approximately 16,900 metric tons of Venezuelan methanol in Texas. According to Refinitiv Eikon, a portion of the cargo was handled by Intercontinental Terminals Company’s (ITC) Deer Park Chemical Terminal.

Exports have been boosted by low prices offered to buyers of Venezuelan petrochemicals (Photo: Reuters / Carlos García Rollins)
Exports have been boosted by low prices offered to buyers of Venezuelan petrochemicals (Photo: Reuters / Carlos García Rollins)

The Vietnamese-flagged ship traveled from the port of Jose, which serves PDVSA and Péquiven.

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boost exports

a A second cargo of 20,000 tonnes of Venezuelan methanol followed a similar route in November on the Sakura Advance tanker, which was unloaded from November 11 to November 13 in Houston and the other in the port of South Louisiana., according to Eikon data.

Eni of Italy also produces methanol in Venezuela through supermethanol, their joint venture in equal parts with Pequiven.

“Eni’s subsidiary has a stake in a methanol plant located in Venezuela and is concerned with the marketing of its production stake in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations relating to economic and financial sanctions, trade sanctions and similar laws,” he said. said. A spokesperson for Eni.

Pequiven and PDVSA increase exports of petrochemicals and petroleum by-products That they are not as valuable as crude oil and were not prioritized until recently, an analysis of internal data from both companies showed.

US sanctions and warnings to traditional buyers of Venezuelan crude have drastically reduced PDVSA exports in recent years.

but Growing shipments of petrochemicals and by-productsAccording to the data, including shipments of methanol, sulfur tablets, urea, natural gasoline, light virgin naphtha and petroleum coke. This was confirmed by three people familiar with the matter, who declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak publicly.

A United States decree in 2019 subjected Venezuela's oil industry to sanctions (Photo: REUTERS / Leonardo Fernandez Viloria)
A United States decree in 2019 subjected Venezuela’s oil industry to sanctions (Photo: REUTERS / Leonardo Fernandez Viloria)

Low prices offered to buyers of Venezuelan petrochemicals boost exports, generating revenue partially used by some of Pequiven’s joint ventures to reopen and modernize production units, the people said.

A more reliable supply of natural gas from PDVSA to the Pequiven Complex has also helped boost petrochemical production. “All the plants are recovering as the product is being sold,” said one of the people. ,Even America is opening doors,

According to internal data, from January to October, PDVSA and Pequiven exported about 1.75 million tonnes of petrochemicals and by-products, doubling total exports this year to 1.03 million tonnes.

Methanol exports this year have been between 20,000 to 60,000 MT per month, mostly bound for the Netherlands, Spain, Japan and China, according to figures and for three people with knowledge of the case.

Venezuela methanol prices vary by destination. One of the people said the ton for delivery in December was traded for between $130 and $140. Such quantities are well below market prices in the United States, ranging between $450 and $690 per ton. Experts agree that the difference in price reacts to quality and delivery conditions, especially freight costs.

By comparison, the market price for a tonne of Venezuelan Mere heavy crude for delivery in November is around . Was $395.

(with information from Reuters)

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