HOUSTON, Oct 14 (Reuters) - The first tanker of imported crude ever bought by Venezuela has sailed from Algeria in a move to reduce costs by the South American state-run oil company PDVSA, according to Reuters ship tracking data and sources close to the deal.
Venezuela will start using imported Algerian crude as a diluent for its extra-heavy crude output from the vast Orinoco Belt, its main producing region, replacing the costly heavy naphtha it had been buying in recent years.
PDVSA, which has not confirmed it has been preparing to receive the country’s first crude oil import, was not immediately available for comment.
The tanker sailed from the port of Bejaia, Algeria, heading for the Jose terminal, after a short stop in Algeciras, Spain, where it was filled with bunker oil, a trader said.
With the world’s largest crude reserves, Venezuela’s oil production has been slowly falling in recent years. The OPEC member is trying to replace dwindling oil sales to the United States with shipments to Asia that are used to pay debts.
The move would imply a savings for Venezuela’s oil company PDVSA, which has been struggling with falling crude oil prices and costly refined product imports amidst an oversupplied market.
The Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) Carabobo, managed by a joint venture between PDVSA and Petrochina, was loaded on Oct. 10 to 11 with up to 2 million barrels of crude, the data say.
Algeria mostly exports Saharan Blend, an extralight crude of 45 API degrees of density with less than 0.1 percent sulfur.
The tanker, with a Singapore flag, is expected to arrive Oct. 26.
“PDVSA has been waiting for this cargo to arrive in October. An oil supply contract with Sonatrach was recently signed,” a source close to the deal told Reuters on Tuesday. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Jessica Resnick-Ault and Lisa Shumaker)