OVL seeks crude oil in lieu of $537 million due from Venezuela

ONGC Videsh owns 40% of San Cristobal field and invested $190 million in the project in 2008. State-run Petroleos de Venezuela holds the remaining stake


Photo: Bloomberg
Photo: Bloomberg

New Delhi: ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL), the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd (ONGC), is seeking $537 million worth of crude oil in lieu of cash due for its share of sales from a Venezuelan oilfield.

OVL owns 40% of the San Cristobal field and had invested about $190 million in the project in 2008. State-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, holds the remaining stake.

“We have not been paid for our share of oil from the field for the past few years,” an OVL official said.

The San Cristobal project covers an area of 160.18 sq. km. in the Zuata sub-division of proliferous Orinoco heavy oil belt in Venezuela.

The field currently produces about 28,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from a peak of 38,000 bpd. The official said OVL received its dividend from sale of crude oil produced from the field totaling $56.224 million for 2008.

But dividends for 2009 to 2013 totalling $537.631 million remained unpaid due to cash flow difficulties being faced by PDVSA.

During 2015-16, OVL’s share of crude oil production was 0.585 million tonnes as compared to 0.645 million tonnes during the previous fiscal. It’s share of investment in the project was Rs2,599.71 crore ($486.69 million) till 31 March 2016.

Since PDVSA is facing a cash crunch, OVL wants its share of revenue from the field be paid in form of crude oil. “We want to be given physical oil which we can sell in international market to recover our dues,” he said.

Venezuela, the cash-strapped OPEC member and holder of the world’s biggest oil reserves, has been unable to pay foreign partners on some of its projects as revenues slumped along with crude prices and as funds were diverted to social programmes and fuel subsidies.

The Latin American nation earns almost all of its export revenue from oil. It is already repaying loans outstanding to China with crude and OVL is keen a similar deal.

Oil minister Dharmendra Pradhan had discussed the past dues with visiting Venezuelan foreign minister Delcy Rodriguez and oil minister Eulogio del Pino last month. Another option was to deduct the outstanding from the money Indian firms like Reliance Industries Ltd and Essar Oil pay to import crude oil from Venezuela.

But since all of the revenue from oil sales is budgeted by Venezuelan government, that option is ruled out, the official said. Venezuela is India’s fourth largest source of crude oil, supplying some 23.6 million tonnes or 12% of the country’s annual import in 2015-16.

OVL, along with Indian Oil Corp. Ltd (IOC) and Oil India Ltd, also holds 18% stake in Venezuela’s Carabobo-1 project, which currently produces about 16,000 bpd of oil and is expected to reach 90,000 bpd by end of 2017.

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