April 10, 2018 / 4:32 PM / 16 days ago

Venezuelan crude sales to the United States rose in March

HOUSTON, April 10 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s crude sales to the United States last month rose to 454,775 barrels per day (bpd), 20 percent more than in February due to larger shipments of diluted crude, according to Thomson Reuters Trade Flows data.

The OPEC member country’s exports to the United States have been hurt by declining oil output and financial sanctions imposed last year by President Donald Trump’s administration on the nation and its state-run companies.

March volumes represented a 30 percent decline versus the same month a year earlier, but were higher than February’s total as imports of the naphtha that Venezuela uses to turn its extra heavy oil into an exportable product have recovered in recent months.

Venezuela’s crude production fell to 1.586 million barrels per day (bpd) in February, its lowest level since the 1950s, according to figures reported to OPEC.

State-run PDVSA and its joint ventures in March sent 27 crude cargoes to customers in the United States, according to the Reuters data.

The largest receiver of Venezuelan crude in the United States last month was PDVSA’s U.S. refining unit Citgo Petroleum, followed by Valero Energy and Chevron Corp .

U.S. refiner PBF Energy Inc, which last year halted a supply contract with PDVSA as sanctions stopped it from getting letters of credit to complete purchases, bought a 638,000-barrel cargo of Venezuelan crude from trading firm Vitol, the data shows.

Venezuela last year sent an average of 593,047 bpd of crude to the United States, versus 718,363 bpd in 2016. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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