• India discusses ways to recover $600 million dues from Venezuela

    India today discussed ways to recover over $600 million of past dues from Venezuela including recouping it from payments for oil it imports from the Latin American nation. ONGC Videsh Ltd owns 40 per cent of the San Cristobal oilfield but has not been paid for its share of oil sales for last couple of years. OVL, in 2008, had invested about $190 million in the project where state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) holds the remaining 51 per cent stake.

    Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today met visiting Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino and discussed bilateral energy issues, including payment of dues. Sources said since cash-strapped Venezuela does not have hard cash to pay after oil prices slumped to a decade low, barter deals were discussed. One of the options is to adjust the outstanding against the crude oil Indian firms like Reliance Industries and Essar Oil import from Venezuela.

    The outstanding can be deducted from the payment these firms have to make to PDVSA for oil imports, sources said, adding the Venezuelean ministers were non-committal on the proposal. Alternately, OVL can take crude oil in lieu of the cash due, they said. Venezuela is India’s fourth largest source of crude oil, supplying some 23.6 million tons or 12 per cent of the country’s annual import in 2015-16.

    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 on fall in oil prices, triggering triple-digit inflation. The crisis was precipitated with funds being diverted to social programmes and fuel subsidies. Venezuela gets almost all of its export revenue from oil. It is already repaying loans outstanding to China with crude.

    An official statement later said Pradhan held a bilateral meeting with two visiting ministers. “During the meeting, both sides discussed aspects of bilateral hydrocarbon engagements. These included, inter-alia, sourcing of crude and mechanism to register Indian oil and gas PSUs for sourcing of crude, status of the two upstream projects in which Indian PSUs have stakes and payment of outstanding dues to ONGC Videsh Ltd (OVL) by Venezuelan national oil company,” it said.

    Also discussed during the meeting was participation of Indian companies in additional exploration and production activities in Venezuela, setting up of an oil-for-export mechanism for payment of pending dues and training of Venezuelan petroleum industry personnel in India. “Both sides agreed to continue their cooperation in the hydrocarbon sector and work towards further strengthening the relation in the areas of mutual interests,” it said.

    OVL, Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Oil India Ltd have 18 per cent stake in the Carabobo-1 project, which currently produces about 16,000 bpd of oil and is expected to reach 90,000 bpd by end of 2017. The 160-square kilometer San Cristobal field in the Orinoco heavy-oil belt currently produces about 28,000 barrels a day, down from a peak of 38,000 bpd. Marcus Peters Authentic Jersey

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