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America Supplies OPEC With Oil Freed From 40-Year Export Ban

Sheela Tobben Lucia Kassai, Bloomberg

The U.S. is now supplying OPEC with crude oil, sort of.

Petroleos de Venezuela SA received a cargo of West Texas Intermediate crude at the end of January at a terminal on the island of Curacao, where PDVSA operates a refinery, according to two people familiar with the shipment. It was the first delivery since export restrictions on U.S. crude were lifted last year.

While Venezuela maintains frosty diplomatic relations with the U.S., with President Nicolas Maduro frequently accusing the country of plotting to sabotage his government, oil links between the two countries remain strong. The country exported about 800,000 barrels of crude a day to the U.S. last year, according to the Energy Information Administration. During the polar vortex in early 2014, PDVSA’s Citgo Petroleum Corp. teamed up with Citizens Energy Corp. to provide heating oil to low-income households in 25 U.S. states.

Venezuela’s state-owned oil company, despite having access to the world’s largest petroleum reserves, uses lighter crude from abroad to blend with its heavier production. In 2015, the company imported about 40,000 barrels a day from countries including Russia, Nigeria and Angola, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

“They’re desperate, they’re really desperate,” said Carl Larry, head of oil and gas for Frost & Sullivan LP. “It’s well known PDVSA has had issues running their refineries in recent years. It really raises a red flag about their economic situation and where their oil company is situated.”

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