HOUSTON, July 9 (Reuters) - Venezuelan crude sales to the United States recovered in June from May as state-run PDVSA exported more of its diluted oil to its customers and drained inventories from two Caribbean islands affected by assets seizures, according to Thomson Reuters data.
PDVSA exports have declined in recent months due to a stubborn tanker backlog around Venezuela’s main ports and its fast-declining crude output, which has stopped the firm from complying with supply contracts to almost all of its customers.
Legal actions against PDVSA by U.S. producer ConocoPhillips aimed to satisfy a $2 billion arbitration award also have recently worsened the bottleneck as the Venezuelan firm is no longer fully using its Caribbean terminals to store and export.
But an increase in production of diluted crude oil, or DCO, formulated by PDVSA by blending naphtha and extra heavy oils while its crude upgraders are out of service, and shipments from Aruba and Curacao ahead of seizure attempts by Conoco helped PDVSA and its joint ventures deliver more barrels to the United States in June.
PDVSA exported 563,962 barrels per day of crude to the United States last month, 5 percent above May figures and the largest volume since August. Exports of DCO slightly surpassed 250,000 bpd, the highest level since May 2017, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows data.
PDVSA shipped at least four crude cargoes from its terminals in Curacao and Aruba to Citgo’s Lake Charles and Corpus Christi refineries on the Gulf Coast, including two shipments of Santa Barbara light sweet crude, a grade that is rarely exported to the United States.
The largest receiver of Venezuelan crude in the United States last month was PDVSA’s refining unit Citgo Petroleum, followed by Valero Energy and Chevron Corp.
A U.S. district court judge in Houston last week ruled Conoco can depose Citgo as preparation for a court case against PDVSA and others over alleged asset transfers in the Caribbean that Conoco claims were designed to frustrate its efforts to obtain payment under the arbitration award. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Dan Grebler)