HOUSTON Venezuelan crude sales to the United States recovered in April compared to previous months to reach 741,000 barrels per day (bpd), its highest level since November, due to a larger supply of diluted and upgraded oil, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows data.
Oil upgraders capable of converting Orinoco Belt's extra heavy crude into exportable grades have increased processing in recent weeks after working partially earlier this year, allowing more exports, sources close to the projects said.
Sales of Zuata 30, Venezuela's lightest upgraded crude, to the United States almost doubled to 178,000 bpd in April compared with the previous month, according to the data.
Exports of diluted crude oil (DCO) made with extra heavy oil and heavy naphtha increased 17 percent compared to March.
The United States imported a total of 42 cargoes of Venezuelan crude in April. The largest receiver was PDVSA's refining unit Citgo Petroleum, followed by Valero Energy (VLO.N) and Phillips 66 (PSX.N).
Even though PDVSA has recently increased crude exports, its sales of refined products have decreased amid very low processing at Venezuela's refining network.
PDVSA's 187,000-barrel-per-day Puerto la Cruz refinery is operating at minimum levels after two of its three distillations units were halted due to lack of available crude and equipment malfunctioning, affecting exports of products such as jet fuel.
The firm also is regularly importing U.S. light crude through a rented storage facility in the island of Curacao.
The tanker NS Champion chartered by China's state-run oil firm CNPC has been waiting to discharge at Curacao's Bullenbay terminal after arriving earlier this week from the U.S. Gulf Coast.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Bill Trott)