* Naphtha purchases will be transitory, according to sources
* Venezuela's PDVSA looks for new crude sources to use as diluent
By Marianna Parraga
HOUSTON, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Oil firms Gunvor from Russia and Citizens Energy Corporation from the United States were awarded with a tender to supply Venezuela's state-run PDVSA with 3 million barrels of heavy naphtha for delivery from February to July, traders told Reuters on Thursday.
PDVSA had launched a tender last month to buy six 500,000-barrel cargoes of heavy naphtha with an option to receive six extra cargoes during 2015.
With the purchase, PDVSA resumed naphtha imports after seven months of inactivity and a failed deal with Algeria's Sonatrach to substitute the refined product with light crude as a diluent to make Venezuela's extra heavy oil an exportable product.
PDVSA and the tender's winners agreed to a price around 8 cents per gallon over naphtha from the U.S. Gulf Coast, one of the traders added.
PDVSA increased purchases and cabotage of naphtha during January, according to an internal report from the state-run oil company seen by Reuters, suggesting it will boost sales of diluted crude oil (DCO) made with extra heavy oil and naphtha in the coming months.
It received at Jose port in January a 500,000-barrel cargo of heavy naphtha from trading firm Delaney that had been loaded in December in the U.S. Gulf Coast, and it transported 1.45 million barrels of the product from its terminals in the Caribbean islands of Aruba and Curacao.
The 310,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) Cardon refinery at Venezuela's western coast also supplied PDVSA with 400,000 barrels of naphtha to be used as diluent.
Even though PDVSA is using stored and imported naphtha to formulate DCO, a source close to PDVSA said this is a transitory strategy while the company finds new sources of light crudes.
PDVSA recently halted a deal with Algeria's Sonatrach after buying some 4 million barrels of Saharan Blend crude, owing to contractual disagreements. Mixing light and extra heavy crudes allows it to formulate blends than can be exported at a higher price, in comparison with DCO.
PDVSA's partners in several joint ventures are offering the company to supply light crudes from the United States, West Africa and other regions.
The company is also buying Russia's Urals crude since November. This week it launched a tender on the open market seeking one to two cargoes, 700,000 barrels each, for March delivery at the Caribbean island of Curacao. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Terry Wade and Lisa Shumaker)