US in 'no rush' to lift sanctions on Venezuela

  • Market: Crude oil
  • 08/03/21

President Joe Biden's administration has no immediate plans to relax the sanctions pressure against Venezuela's oil sector, despite doubts about its effectiveness and humanitarian drawbacks.

"There is no rush to lift sanctions," a senior administration official told reporters today. "The US is going to continue to increase the pressure, and it is going to expand that pressure multilaterally" until such time that Venezuelan president Nicolas Maduro's government negotiates in good faith with its opponents and agrees to hold free and fair elections, the US official said.

Biden's administration today made good on his campaign pledge of granting temporary asylum status to more than 300,000 Venezuelans living in the US — a small part of the more than 5mn refugees who left the country over the past decade because of deteriorating economic and social conditions.

Biden has criticized his predecessor's policy of unilateral sanctions against Caracas as ineffective, and his top officials say that the criticism is still valid. But changing that policy has proved difficult because it could require Washington to abandon its recognition of Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido as the country's interim leader — a bridge too far for a US administration that has promised to make the promotion of human rights and democracy a top priority.

The net result is that US officials make a good case for altering the sanctions regime but not until a credible dialogue between Maduro and the Guaido-led opposition succeeds in ensuring new elections in Venezuela.

In Washington, senior Democratic members of the House of Representatives have called on the White House to ensure that sanctions do not interfere with the provision of humanitarian assistance to Venezuela. The oil industry separately is pushing for restoring crude-for-diesel swaps for non-US companies, making the case that it would ensure fuel supply for food and aid distribution and power generation.

"The focus of sanctions should be to increase pressure on the (Maduro) regime, eliminate any sort of access to corrupt capital to sustain themselves but also not one that penalizes unnecessarily the Venezuelan people," the US official said.

"The only outcome of this crisis is a negotiation that leads to a democratic solution," the official said.

Maduro in the past has used negotiations with the opposition as a delaying tactic, so the US will need to be persuaded that future talks are in earnest, according to the official. "Once that happens, we will consult with the international community and the (Guaido) interim government and make decisions about whether sanctions would be lifted."

Venezuela's crude production has recovered to around 500,000 b/d, but that is still less than half pre-US sanctions levels. While the financial and oil sanctions imposed by Washington have accelerated the decline in the Opec producer's output, decades of mismanagement and the departure of trained professionals from state-owned PdV are the root causes of the drop.

The US is looking for new ways to pressure the Maduro government, since Caracas appears to have adapted to the oil sanctions, the US official said. "We have clearly seen is that the regime has adapted to sanctions, oil markets long ago have adapted to oil sanctions, and that they are able to sustain themselves through illicit flows."

The US has vowed to coordinate its Venezuela policy more closely with the EU and countries in the western hemisphere. But the US is almost alone now in continuing to recognize Guaido and the defunct legislature he heads as the country's sole legitimate authority. The EU has called on the opposition to make "difficult compromises" in joining negotiations with Maduro.


Sharelinkedin-sharetwitter-sharefacebook-shareemail-share

Related news posts

Argus illuminates the markets by putting a lens on the areas that matter most to you. The market news and commentary we publish reveals vital insights that enable you to make stronger, well-informed decisions. Explore a selection of news stories related to this one.

News
24/05/24

Q&A: Shell Oman to balance upstream with renewables

Q&A: Shell Oman to balance upstream with renewables

Dubai, 24 May (Argus) — Shell has been in Oman for decades now and had a front row seat to its energy evolution from primarily an oil producing nation to now a very gas-rich and gas-leaning hydrocarbons producer. Argus spoke to Shell Oman's country chairman Walid Hadi about the company's energy strategy in the sultanate. Edited highlights follow: How would you characterize Oman's energy sector today, and where do new energies fit into that? Oman is one of the countries where there is quite a bit of overlap between how we see the energy transition and how the country sees it. Oman is clear that hydrocarbons will continue to play a role in its energy system for a long period of time. But it is also looking to decrease the carbon intensity to the most extent which is viable. We need to work on creating new energy systems or new components of energy system like hydrogen and EV charging to facilitate that. It is what we would like to call a 'just transition' because you think about it from macroeconomic perspective of the country and its economic health. Shell is involved across the energy spectrum in Oman – from upstream gas to alternative, clean energies. What is Shell's overall strategy for the country? In Oman, our strategic foundation has three main pillars. The first is around oil and liquids and our ambition is to sustain oil and liquids production. At the same time, we aim to significantly reduce carbon intensity from the oil production coming from PDO. The second strategic pillar is gas, and our ambition here is to grow the amount of gas we are producing in Oman and also to help Oman grow its LNG export capabilities. The more committed we are in unlocking the gas reserves in the country, the more we can support Oman's growth, diversification, and the resilience of its economy through investments and LNG revenue. Gas also offers a very logical and nice link into blue and green hydrogen, whether in sequence or as a stepping stone to scale the hydrogen economy in the country. The last strategic pillar is to establish low-carbon value chains, predominantly centered around hydrogen, more likely blue hydrogen in the short term and very likely material green in the long term, which is subject to regulations and markets developing. How would you view Oman's potential to be a major exporter of green hydrogen? When examining the foundational aspects of green hydrogen manufacturing, such as the quality of solar and wind resources and their onshore complementarity, Oman emerges as a highly competitive country in terms of its capabilities. But where we are in technology and where we are in global markets and on policy frameworks — the demand centers for green hydrogen are maturing but not yet matured. I think there will be a period of discovery for green hydrogen globally, not just for Oman, in the way LNG started 20-30 years ago. When it does, Oman will be well-positioned to play global role in the global hydrogen economy. But the question is, how much time it is going to take us and what kind of multi-collaboration needs to be in place to enable that? The realisation of this potential hinges on several factors: the policies of the Omani government, its bilateral ties with Japan, Korea, and the EU, and the technological advancements within the industry. Shell has also been looking at developing CCUS opportunities in the country. How big a role can CCUS play in the region's energy transition? CCUS is going to be an important tool in decarbonising the global energy system. We have several projects globally that we are pursuing for own scope 1, scope 2 emissions reductions, as well as to enable scope 3 emissions with the customers and partners In Oman, we are pursuing a blue hydrogen project where CCUS is a clear component. This initiative serves as a demonstrative case, helping us gauge the country's potential for CCUS implementation. We are using that as a proof point to understand the potential for CCUS in the country. At this stage, it's too early to gauge the scale of CCUS adoption in Oman or our specific role within it. However, we are among the pioneers in establishing the initial proof point through our Blue Hydrogen initiative. You were able to kick off production in block 10 in just over a year after signing the agreement. How are things progressing there? We have started producing at the plateau levels that we agreed with the government, which is just above 500mn ft³/d. Block 10 gas is sold to the government, through the government-owned Integrated Gas Company (IGC), which so far has been the entity that purchases gas from various operators in Oman like us, Shell. IGC then allocates that gas on a certain policy and value criteria across different sectors. We will require new gas if we are going to expand LNG in Oman. There is active gas exploration happening there in Block 10. We know there is more potential in the block. We still don't know at what scale it can be produce gas or the reservoir's characteristics. But blocks 10 and 11 are a combination of undiscovered and discovered resources. We are aiming to significantly increase gas production through a substantial boost. However, the exact scale and timing of this expansion will only be discernible upon the conclusion of our two-year exploration campaign in the block. We expect to understand the full growth potential by around mid to late 2025. Do you have any updates on block 11? Has exploration work there begun? We did have a material gas discovery which is being appraised this year, but it is a bit too early to draw conclusions at this stage. So, after the appraisal campaign is completed, we will be able to talk more confidently about the production potential. Exploration is a very uncertain business. You must go after a lot of things and only a few will end up working. We have a very aggressive exploration campaign at the moment. We also expect by the end of 2025, we would be in a much better position to determine the next wave of growth and where it is going to come from. Shell is set to become the largest off taker from Oman LNG, how do you view the LNG markets this year and next? As a company, we are convinced, that the demand for LNG will grow and it needs to grow if the world is going to achieve the energy transition Gas must play a role, it has to play a bigger role globally over the time, mainly to replace coal in power generation and given its higher efficiency and lower carbon intensity fuel in the energy mix. While Oman may not be the largest LNG exporter globally or hold the most significant gas reserves, it is a niche player in the gas sector with a sophisticated and high-quality gas infrastructure. Oman's resource base remains robust, driving ongoing exploration and investment efforts. This growth trajectory includes catering to domestic needs and servicing industrial hubs like Duqm and Sohar, alongside allocating resources for export purpose. We have the ambition to grow gas for domestic purpose and for gas for eventual exports Have you identified any international markets to export LNG? We have been historically and predominantly focused on east and we continue to see east as core LNG market with focus on Japan, Korea, and China. Europe has also emerged on the back of the Ukraine-Russia crisis as growing demand center for LNG. Over time we might focus on different markets to a certain extent. It will be driven on maximising value for the country. By Rithika Krishna Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Find out more
News

Opec+ to take June meetings online


24/05/24
News
24/05/24

Opec+ to take June meetings online

Dubai, 24 May (Argus) — Meetings to discuss Opec+ crude output policy that had been scheduled to take place in Vienna at the start of June have been pushed back by a day and will now be held online. The meetings — one involving Opec ministers, another involving the wider Opec+ coalition and a third consisting of the group's Joint Ministerial Monitoring Committee (JMMC) — will "convene via videoconference on Sunday 2 June 2024", the Opec secretariat said on Friday. The original schedule was for Opec+ ministers to meet in person on 1 June. The announcement puts to bed more than a week of rumours and delegate chatter about whether or not the meeting would take place in person as speculation mounts around what policy decision the group would need, or be prepared, to take. Effectively, the only thing up for debate at these meetings is the fate of the 2.2mn b/d supply cut that eight member countries, led by Saudi Arabia and Russia, committed to after the Opec+ group's last meeting in late November. That cut was originally due to last for just three months, but it was later extended for another three months until the end of June. Several weeks ago, when oil prices were under sustained upward pressure in the face of tightening fundamentals and rising geopolitical tensions, expectations were high that the group would agree to begin unwinding at least part of the 2.2mn b/d from July. But a relative easing of tensions in the Middle East, coupled with signs of continued restrictive monetary policy by the US Federal Reserve and other major central banks, has since led to a softening of oil prices and with that a change in sentiment among Opec+ delegates about what the group should do next. Delegates today argue that the market is on the whole well-supplied and in no need of additional supply from the group, particularly given the uncertainty around the outlook for oil demand, highlighted by the wide range of growth projections for 2024. At one end of the spectrum, Opec sees oil demand growth of 2.25mn b/d this year. At the other end, the IEA recently revised down its 2024 growth forecast for a second consecutive month. It now stands at 1.06mn b/d. Two Opec+ delegates said earlier this week that they expect the eight countries to extend the 2.2mn b/d cut in its entirety beyond the second quarter. One said they could extend it through to the end of the year. Compensation plans A renewed emphasis by Opec+ in recent weeks on the need for those member countries producing above their targets to not only scale back but also compensate fully for their past overproduction could be interpreted as acknowledgement by the group that the market is indeed well-supplied. Iraq and Kazakhstan, the group's biggest overproducers this year, this month issued detailed programmes outlining how they plan to compensate , while Russia this week acknowledged it had exceeded its Opec+ target for April and said it would soon submit a plan to the Opec secretariat detailing how it will make up it. Although all eyes will be on the fate of the 2.2mn b/d cut at the upcoming meetings, the fact it is a voluntary pledge and one agreed by only a handful of countries means, in theory, a decision need not happen at the ministerial meeting. As the eight countries participating in that cut are all members of the JMMC, there is a good chance the decision gets announced at the committee's meeting instead. By Nader Itayim Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Richmond City Council proposes Chevron refinery tax


23/05/24
News
23/05/24

Richmond City Council proposes Chevron refinery tax

Houston, 23 May (Argus) — The Richmond City Council in California's Bay Area has paved the way for a tax on Chevron's 245,000 b/d refinery, voting unanimously at a 21 May meeting for the city's attorney to prepare a ballot initiative. The newly proposed excise tax would be based on the Richmond refinery's feedstock throughputs, according to a presentation given by Communities for a Better Environment (CBE) at the meeting. It is a "…legally defensible strategy to generate new revenue for the city," CBE attorney Kerry Guerin said. The city has previously looked to tax the refinery, with voters passing ‘Measure T' in 2008 before it was struck down in court in 2009. This led to a 15-year settlement agreement freezing any new taxes on Chevron's refinery, but the agreement expires on 30 June 2025. The city is projecting a $34mn budget shortfall for the 2024 to 2025 fiscal year and is seeking to shore up its finances with additional revenue. Ballot initiatives allow Californian citizens to bring laws to a vote without the support of the state's governor or legislature, and the tax proposal could go to voters as early as November this year, according to CBE's Guerin. "Richmond has been the refinery town for more than 100 years, but it won't be 100 years from now," Richmond Mayor Eduardo Martinez said during the meeting. Chevron reiterates risk to renewables A tax on the refinery is the "wrong approach to encourage investment in our facility and in the city that could lead to new energy solutions and reductions in emissions from the refinery," Chevron senior public affairs representative Brian Hubinger said during the meeting's public comments. Hubinger's comment echoes prior warnings from Chevron that a potential cap on California refining profit in the process of being implemented by the California Energy Commission (CEC) would make the company less willing to investment in renewable energy . "An additional punitive tax burden reduces our ability to make investments in our facility to provide the affordable, reliable and ever-cleaner energy our community depends on every day, along with the job opportunities and emission reductions that go with these investments," Chevron said in an emailed statement. The Richmond refinery tax is a "hasty proposal, brought forward by activist interests," the company said. The company last year finished converting a hydrotreating unit at its 269,000 b/d El Segundo, California, refinery to process both renewable and crude feedstocks. The facility was processing 2,000 b/d of bio feedstock to produce renewable diesel (RD) and sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) and said it expected to up production to 10,000 b/d last year. But Chevron has so far lagged its California refining peers in terms of RD volumes with Marathon's Martinez plant running at about 24,000 b/d in the first quarter — half of its nameplate capacity — and Phillips 66's Rodeo refinery producing 30,000 b/d with plans to up runs to over 50,000 b/d by the end of the second quarter . Chevron did not immediately respond to a request for current RD volumes at its California refineries. By Nathan Risser Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

Mexico crude exports up after Tula refinery outage


22/05/24
News
22/05/24

Mexico crude exports up after Tula refinery outage

Mexico City, 22 May (Argus) — Mexican crude exports have bounced back in May after a power outage hit state-owned Pemex's 315,000 b/d Tula refinery last week, likely freeing more crude for the export market. Crude exports rose to about 838,000 b/d so far in May, up by 18pc from full-month April but still 22pc lower compared with all of May 2023, according to trade analytics firm Kpler data. The month-over-month hike was likely supported by a power outage at the Tula refinery on 13 May, which affected up to 20 processing plants, according to market sources. It remains unclear if the refinery has resumed operations, but sources said the restart could take about two weeks. The Tula refinery, which supplies refined products to Mexico City's metropolitan area, processed 246,500 b/d of crude in March, of which 182,000 b/d, or 74pc, was medium or light sour crude, according to the latest Pemex data. Medium and light sour crude exports rose by 13pc to 336,000 b/d so far in May from the previous month, Kpler data show. Additionally, fires at the Salina Cruz and Minatitlan refineries in late April could have also added to the uptick of crude exports. Mexico this year trimmed crude exports to feed its domestic refineries as President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador seeks to cut fuel imports in his final year in office, in line with his campaign promise to make Mexico more energy independent. Pemex's six domestic refineries processed over 1mn b/d in March for the first time in almost eight years, driven by billion-dollar investments in maintenance since 2019 and the cut in crude exports. The start-up of the new 340,000 b/d Olmeca refinery could further reduce crude exports, but the refinery still faces multiple delays . By Antonio Gozain Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

News

UK general election set for 4 July


22/05/24
News
22/05/24

UK general election set for 4 July

London, 22 May (Argus) — A general election will take place in the UK on 4 July, prime minister Rishi Sunak said today. The announcement coincides with official data showing that UK inflation has fallen to its lowest level in nearly three years. Labour, the country's main opposition party led by Keir Starmer, has held a substantial lead in polls in recent months and performed well in local elections earlier this month. It won nearly 200 seats on local councils, as well as several regional mayoral contests, while the ruling Conservative Party lost almost 500 council seats. The Conservatives have been in power since 2010 and have fielded five prime ministers during that time. The two main parties are likely to release more detailed manifestos once the election campaign begins, but their current respective energy policies have many similarities. Both back a windfall tax on oil and gas producers and support nuclear power. They both also support offshore wind and solar power, although Labour has incrementally more ambitious targets for those renewables and has plans for more onshore wind. Labour also wants a zero-carbon power grid by 2030 , while the Conservatives are aiming for that in 2035. The Conservatives have rolled back some climate policy since Sunak became prime minister, while Labour in February backed down on its pledge to spend £28bn/yr ($35.6bn/yr) on the country's energy transition, if it wins the election. For a general election to take place in the UK, the prime minister must request permission from the British monarch — King Charles III — who then dissolves parliament. A general election must take place at least once every five years in the UK, although a prime minister can call one at any point. The UK's last general election was held on 12 December 2019 and Boris Johnson was elected prime minister. There have since then been two prime ministers — Liz Truss in September-October 2022 — and Sunak. Truss was selected by Conservative Party members and Sunak became prime minister in October 2022 after the only other candidate withdrew from the leadership contest. The Conservatives hold 344 seats out of 650 in the House of Commons, the UK's lower house of parliament. But 105 members of parliament have said that they will not run at the next election, 66 of whom are Conservatives. By Georgia Gratton Send comments and request more information at feedback@argusmedia.com Copyright © 2024. Argus Media group . All rights reserved.

Generic Hero Banner

Business intelligence reports

Get concise, trustworthy and unbiased analysis of the latest trends and developments in oil and energy markets. These reports are specially created for decision makers who don’t have time to track markets day-by-day, minute-by-minute.

Learn more