Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Venezuela paying italian company over oilfield takeover

Venezuela paying Italian company over oilfield takeover

CARACAS, Venezuela (Reuters) — Venezuela has agreed to pay Italy's Eni $700 million in cash for the takeover of an oil field but hardened its stance in a fierce compensation battle with ExxonMobil (XOM).
Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said Tuesday that the government would make the payment to Eni for the Dacion heavy crude project over a seven-year period.
"The book value of the investments made by the transnational company in the Dacion field are $700 million and we have agreed to pay it over seven years," he said.
He said the agreement left Exxon isolated as the only company fighting with the government over a drive to increase state control of Venezuela's huge oil resources.
Exxon in recent weeks won court orders freezing up to $12 billion of Venezuela's assets, prompting state oil company PDVSA to sever commercial ties with America's biggest company.
Ramirez warned that Venezuela could pull out of its Chalmette, La., refinery joint venture with the Texas company over the dispute. He said the fight with Exxon was one factor helping support world oil prices.
Venezuela took over the Eni field in 2006 after negotiations with the government of socialist President Hugo Chavez to convert the Dacion subcontracting venture into a state-majority joint venture fell through.
"Eni believes this settlement represents an important step toward improving and consolidating the cooperation with local authorities and with PDVSA," the company said last week in statement.
Ramirez thanked Eni for its willingness to negotiate an agreement with Venezuela while slamming Exxon for challenging PDVSA over compensation for the nationalization last year of one of four Orinoco heavy oil projects.
"Eni never lost trust in our country," Ramirez was quoted as saying by the local Globovision television channel, which posted his comments on its website. He criticized what he called Exxon's "aggressive attitude."
Ramirez on Tuesday denied that Exxon's investments in the Orinoco region are worth billions of dollars, saying the company's "total assets in Venezuela are less than one billion dollars."
Contributing: Associated Press
Copyright 2008 Reuters Limited.

Labels: , , , , ,

Friday, February 15, 2008

It would be the worst time politically for Chavez to cut oil shipments to US

"It would be the worst time politically for Chavez to cut oil shipments to the U.S.," said Patrick Esteruelas, Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York.
Oil analysts dismiss threat by Chavez on sales to U.S.
Dan Caterinicchia
Associated Press
Feb. 12, 2008 12:00 AM
WASHINGTON - Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's latest threat to cut off oil sales to the U.S. produces tantalizing headlines and rattles some oil
traders' nerves.But analysts say it presents no long-term danger to global oil supplies or prices and makes no economic or political sense for his own country.Chavez's threat was in retaliation to Exxon Mobil Corp.'s efforts in U.S. and British courts to freeze billions of dollars of assets belonging to Venezuela's state oil company to resolve an oil-production contract dispute.

"If you end up freezing (Venezuelan assets) and it harms us, we're going to harm you," Chavez said Sunday. "Do you know how? We aren't going to send oil to the United States. "His comments helped stir anxiety on oil markets on Monday, sending crude futures prices up by nearly $2 a barrel. (Violence in Nigeria, refinery outages and colder weather in the U.S. also propelled prices higher.)
If Chavez actually cuts off supplies to the U.S., the impact would be mostly symbolic, said oil analyst Peter Beutel of Cameron Hanover in New Canaan, Conn. Any short-term supply disruption would dissipate as other nations make arrangements to take the Venezuelan crude and the U.S. makes up its shortfall by purchasing additional barrels from the Middle East, Africa and other regions.
"It makes no sense for Mr. Chavez to follow through on his threats" because the U.S. refining industry's plants, some of which are owned by Venezuela, are customized to handle much of Venezuela's high-sulfur crude oil, said Tom Kloza, chief oil analyst at the Oil Price Information Service in Wall, N.J. If Venezuela's crude was low in sulfur content, making it more valuable on the global market, he might have a better hand to play, Kloza said.
Indeed, the U.S. remains the No. 1 buyer of Venezuelan oil, purchasing more than 41 million barrels in November, accounting for roughly 10 percent of all crude-oil imports that month, according to the most recent Energy Department data available.
With oil prices hovering above $90 a barrel, Chavez relies largely on U.S. oil money to stimulate his economy and bankroll social programs that have traditionally boosted his popularity. Nevertheless, Chavez in December lost a vote on constitutional changes that would have let him run for re-election indefinitely."It would be the worst time politically for Chavez to cut oil shipments to the U.S.," said Patrick Esteruelas, Latin America analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York.
This isn't the first time Chavez has tried to use the oil weapon. He has repeatedly threatened to cut off shipments to the U.S. if Washington tries to oust him, but many analysts have dismissed that scenario as highly unlikely. Chavez, meanwhile, has been vague about precisely what actions by the U.S. government could constitute an attack against his government worthy of halting oil shipments.
Exxon Mobil has gone after the assets of Petroleos de Venezuela SA in U.S. and European courts as it challenges the nationalization by Chavez's government of four heavy oil projects in the Orinoco River basin, one of the world's richest oil deposits. Other oil companies including Chevron Corp., France's Total, Britain's BP PLC and Norway's Statoil Hydro ASA have negotiated deals with Venezuela to continue as minority partners in the project, but ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil balked at the tougher terms and have been in compensation talks with Petroleos.
It still remains unclear how much Venezuela stands to lose economically from Exxon Mobil's lawsuits in courts in New York and London.Although a British court last month issued an injunction "freezing" as much as $12 billion (euro 8.3 billion) in Venezuelan assets, initial reaction from Venezuela's top oil official suggested that Chavez's government does not expect to face much harm.
Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said last week that the state oil company does not have "any assets in that jurisdiction that even come close to those sums."Light, sweet crude for March delivery rose $1.82 to settle at $93.59 a barrel Monday on the New York Mercantile Exchange after earlier hitting a one-month high of $94.72.
A key factor, analysts said, was that unidentified gunmen in Nigeria attacked a naval vessel that was escorting petroleum industry boats. Militant attacks have cut the African nation's oil output by nearly a quarter in the past two years.

Labels: , , , ,

Tuesday, February 12, 2008


Gustavo Coronel‏

**** The Venezuelan Oil industry in chaos: an unreliable supplier to the U.S.

The model chosen to nationalize the Venezuelan petroleum industry in 1976 was unique and very successful: four integrated operating companies under a financial and strategic planning holding company. Management was very professional, politics did not play a role and, as a result, Petroleos de Venezuela became, for the next 25 years, one of the top oil companies in the world, next to Exxon and Shell. This success story came to an end when Hugo Chavez came into power in 1999. During his presidency Petroleos de Venezuela has lost about 800,000 barrels per day of production capacity, and management has been politicized. U.S. based, fully owned affiliate, Citgo, has become a political tool that distributes subsidized fuel in the U.S. as part of Hugo Chavez’s strategy to establish a political beachhead in that country, with the willing assistance of Joseph Kennedy III and a few members of U.S. Congress.

Venezuela still is one of the key petroleum suppliers to the U.S., sending about 1.1 million barrels per day to that country. Any abrupt disruption of this flow of oil would result in a major blow to the U.S. economy, already in the threshold of a recession. Up to now the possibility of such a disruption had been based upon the unpredictable nature of Hugo Chavez as an authoritarian leader who hates the U.S. There is little doubt that Chavez would interrupt the flow of oil to the U.S if he could. But he cannot. Most of the oil coming to the U.S. can only be refined in U.S refineries and it would take China or India, the other two likely main clients, about five years to build refineries to process Venezuelan oil.

The danger of such an interruption is, therefore, negligible? Not really. There is another reason why this flow could be suddenly interrupted: because the Venezuelan petroleum company becomes unable to fulfill its contractual obligations due to poor management and to a major financial or operational collapse. Even two years ago this would have appeared extremely unlikely but, recently, the company has been deteriorating at an alarming rate. Under investment and lack of maintenance have combined to take production down to very low levels, no more than 2.5 million barrels per day, while domestic consumption is now reaching some 800,000 barrels per day, cutting into the volumes originally destined for exports. Some 300,000 barrels per day go at subsidized prices to Cuba, Nicaragua, Bolivia and some of the Caribbean states. Any further problems of an operational or financial nature would place PDVSA’s production below the volumes contractually committed to the U.S.
What are the chances of these problems getting worse in the near future? They are so high that the U.S. should be prepared for such an eventuality.

The Venezuelan petroleum industry is nearing financial collapse. Recent signs are ominous. The company is demanding payment of exports within eight days, rather than the traditional thirty days, suggesting that the company has a severe problem of cash flow. Some days ago the Venezuelan petroleum company ordered Citgo to obtain an urgent $1 billion loan on its behalf and a few hours ago it requested another $500 million from Citgo as advanced dividends. In a very unusual move cargoes of fuel oil, worth about one billion dollars, have been placed for sale in the spot market at a discount provided they are paid in cash. The Venezuelan petroleum company has obtained a $4 billion loan to China, to pay for debts of the central government that have no relation with the oil company. The Bahamas oil terminal, owned by Petroleos de Venezuela, has been put up for sale, without success. There is an air of panic surrounding the finances of the Venezuelan petroleum company.

But this is not all. As a result of the aggressive political moves during the last two years by Hugo Chavez, who practically confiscated large oil projects of Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips in Venezuela, Exxon Mobil has just decided to counter attack and has obtained court orders from the U.K., the Netherlands, the Netherlands Antilles and the U.S. to freeze up to $12 billion worth of Venezuelan oil assets in these countries. This legal action by Exxon Mobil might not impede the daily operations of the company but represents a major financial and psychological blow to the already very weakened Venezuelan petroleum company and to the government of Hugo Chavez. This action might be followed by a similar action by ConocoPhillips,another company that feels wronged by the Chavez government.

The possibility of a major collapse of the Venezuelan petroleum company and of its inability to fulfill U.S. contractual commitments increases as the days go by.

Labels: , ,