October 3, 2017 / 9:00 PM / a year ago

Venezuela's U.S. crude sales hit 14-yr low in Sept on sanctions, port closures

HOUSTON, Oct 3 (Reuters) - Sales of Venezuelan crude to the United States fell to a 14-year low in September, according to Thomson Reuters Trade Flows data, on U.S. Gulf Coast ports closures due to Hurricane Harvey and sanctions.

Venezuela’s oil output dropped this year to its lowest point in almost three decades, hurting exports to its main customers. Shipments to the United States have also been hit by U.S. sanctions on Venezuela’s state oil company, PDVSA, in August.

The United States received 30 cargoes of Venezuelan crude in September, from 38 the previous month. Volumes fell to 488,165 barrels per day, down 24 percent from August levels and a 38-percent fall compared with the same month of 2016, according to the Reuters data.

Venezuela does not publicly release monthly oil export figures.

Petroleos de Venezuela’s U.S. refining arm, Citgo Petroleum, was the largest recipient of Venezuelan crude last month, followed by Valero Energy.

Phillips 66 and Chevron Corp imported less Venezuelan oil in September compared with August, the figures showed.

Several cargoes of Venezuelan crude had to be lightered as most Texas ports operated in September under draft restrictions, banning fully loaded Aframax tankers from using the navigation channels due to damage caused by Hurricane Harvey, according to the data and port authorities.

Venezuela also shipped to the United States some crude grades that typically are exported to other destinations, including a cargo of Santa Barbara light crude bought by trading firm Trafigura and another of Pedernales heavy crude imported by Citgo.

U.S. President Donald Trump’s administration in August imposed sanctions intended to disrupt PDVSA and the Venezuelan government’s ability to raise new debt, and banned Citgo from transferring dividends or other profits to its parent company.

Even though most commercial trade was exempted from the sanctions, some U.S. importers of Venezuelan oil have struggled to get the letters of credit needed to complete certain purchases.

The Department of Treasury said on Tuesday payments by U.S. persons to the Venezuelan government and PDVSA for goods and services, taxes and royalties, as well as payments to holders of Venezuelan bonds are excluded from sanctions. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Gary McWilliams and Susan Thomas)

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