HOUSTON, Oct 31 (Reuters) - The tanker Carabobo carrying Algerian light crude to Venezuela has finished unloading at Jose terminal and has set sail to the Caribbean island of Saint Eustatius, where it will deliver the rest of its content, according to Reuters vessel tracking data and a document from state-run PDVSA.
Arrival of the Algerian crude cargo marked the first crude import made by the OPEC-member country, which in late 1990s bought condensates from Nigeria also to mix with its extra heavy production while its crude upgraders were built. Those purchases ceased in 2000.
The Singapore-flagged tanker, managed by a joint venture of PDVSA and PetroChina, delivered 700,000 barrels of Algerian Saharan Blend in Venezuela to be used as diluent for extra heavy crudes produced at the vast Orinoco belt, says PDVSA's exports and imports report.
The vessel, with capacity of two million barrels, set sail on Friday to Statia terminal, operated by NuStar in Saint Eustatius. PDVSA has leased part of the facility since the beginning of 2014 for blending and storing operations. It is scheduled to arrive to the Caribbean island on Saturday.
Venezuela, long an exporter, does not have a vast infrastructure to handle imports. Only a few of its ports can manage unloading and transportation of oil purchases and most of them are being used for increasing fuel imports.
A second Algerian crude cargo for Venezuela, the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Boston, is being loaded at the port of Bejaia and expected to set sail to Jose terminal in the coming days.
After confirming purchases, PDVSA said this month that oil imports are "occasional" and most of them will be made while a 270,000 barrel per day (bpd) crude upgrader operated with Norway's Statoil and France's Total is halted for a major maintenance as of November.
But experts say that a decline in domestic production of light and medium crudes that were used as diluents in Venezuela, and delays in construction of new upgraders, are leaving PDVSA without options to replace imports in the short term . (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Terry Wade)