CARACAS, Nov 21 (Reuters) - Venezuela is sending its first shipment of crude mixed with Algerian light oil to China, according to state oil company PDVSA and traders.
Venezuela recently started importing Saharan Blend from Algerian state-run Sonatrach to dilute its extra heavy crude from the Orinoco oil belt. PDVSA had previously imported costlier naphtha to use as a diluent.
The Carabobo supertanker carrying 1.8 million barrels of Merey heavy crude will arrive in China in 46 days, PDVSA said in a statement. It did not elaborate on the terms of the deal.
"This Merey crude was made with the imported Algerian crude," a trader said on Friday. "PDVSA is selling it with those characteristics."
The Merey blend using Algerian oil fetches Venezuela $20 dollars more per barrel than crude mixed with imported naphtha, according to Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez.
The OPEC country's oil ports are struggling to load and unload cargoes on time due to an increase in fuel imports prompted by trouble at PDVSA's 1.3 million-barrel-per-day domestic refining network.
A tanker carrying PDVSA's second crude purchase from Sonatrach arrived at the port of Jose late on Monday, according to Reuters vessel-tracking data.
Venezuela, which has the world's largest crude reserves, has steadily increased its commercial and financial ties with China, to whom it ships around 600,000 bpd of oil, much of it part of an oil-for-financing agreement. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga and Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Bernard Orr)