* Graphic on Venezuela's oil exports: tmsnrt.rs/2CcJciU
By Marianna Parraga and Mircely Guanipa
MEXICO CITY/PUNTO FIJO, Venezuela, Nov 4 (Reuters) - V enezuela’s oil exports eased in October, but surpassed 800,000 barrels per day (bpd) for second month in a row, helping to drain an inventory buildup that had forced the OPEC country to cut output, according to documents and data.
Since the United States imposed sanctions on Venezuelan state-run oil firm PDVSA in January to oust socialist President Nicolas Maduro, the OPEC-member country has struggled to find customers and tankers for its oil.
New rounds of sanctions in August and September on Venezuela and maritime firms carrying the nation’s oil pushed its crude stocks to record levels, requiring PDVSA to reduce output and halt blending operations. But exports have improved since late September as an armada of tankers sent by allies has helped the country partially drain inventories.
PDVSA and its joint ventures delivered a total of 33 cargoes of crude and refined products last month, exporting an average of 812,775 barrels per day (bpd), 3.7% below the September level and down from this year’s peak of 1.13 million bpd in June, according to internal documents from the company and Refinitiv Eikon data.
The top destination for its October crude exports was China with 292,000 bpd, while the largest recipient was Russian state-run oil firm Rosneft, which took 503,100 bpd or 62% of the nation’s total oil exports, according to the data.
Venezuela’s most important political ally, Cuba, received almost 114,000 bpd of mostly crude and fuel oil in October, below the 143,000 bpd of September.
Problems reported by some customers with the quality of Venezuela’s heavy crude grades - which typically contains high volumes of water and sulfur - last month caused delays in tanker loadings and departures, according to the PDVSA documents.
But October’s exports drained almost 1 million barrels of crude in inventories as the nation’s production remained below this year’s average. Inventories ended last month at 39 million barrels, according to data intelligence firm Kpler.
Since the United States imposed the measures on PDVSA, a growing number of tankers switch their transponders off while in Venezuelan waters, making difficult to accurately track export vessels.
The South American country also imported 213,000 bpd of refined products last month, mainly diesel, gas oil and gasoline for domestic consumption and for supplying Cuba, which has struggled to satisfy fuel consumption in recent months. The number was higher than the 184,700 bpd bought in September.
Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Mexico City and Mircely Guanipa in Punto Fijo, Venezuela Editing by Marguerita Choy