A recent agreement struck between Venezuela and the U.S. is expected to have a significant impact on global oil supplies and potentially influence prices. Despite Venezuela’s current low oil production, this deal has the potential to gradually stabilize the market after a prolonged period of undersupply.
In a move towards political reform, the Biden administration has decided to relax the sanctions that were placed on Venezuelan oil over the past four years. The condition for this concession is that the Venezuelan government commits to organizing free elections next year. Presently, Venezuela produces approximately 800,000 barrels of oil per day, a substantial decline from its peak production of over 3 million barrels. In comparison, global output stands at 101 million barrels.
With the temporary pause in sanctions, experts at Rystad Energy anticipate that Venezuela could increase its oil production by an additional 200,000 barrels per day. This development comes at a crucial time, as the Energy Information Administration recently predicted a shortfall of 200,000 barrels in the oil market during the first quarter of 2024. Consequently, Venezuela’s increased production has the potential to bridge this gap and restore balance to the market.
Venezuela’s Struggle to Boost Oil Production
The situation is not as straightforward as it may seem when it comes to Venezuela’s oil production. Experts argue that Venezuela has not invested enough in its oil infrastructure, which poses a challenge for operators looking to increase output. While the country’s production is expected to ramp up in the coming months, it is uncertain how long it will take for new production to come online. Additionally, the relief provided by U.S. sanctions is only guaranteed for a six-month period. If the Venezuelan government fails to make progress towards elections, the sanctions could be reinstated.
The skepticism surrounding Venezuela’s ability to regain its status as an oil powerhouse is reflected in oil traders’ lack of optimism. Since the news broke, oil prices have seen an upward trend. This development highlights the Biden administration’s determination to locate alternative sources of oil to compensate for the decreased availability of OPEC oil.
Though U.S. production has reached record levels, it is still insufficient to make up for the shortfall caused by other countries’ reduced output. Saudi Arabia, for example, currently produces three million fewer barrels compared to its peak production levels.
President Joe Biden initiated the easing of sanctions on Venezuela last year, resulting in Chevron emerging as the largest U.S. oil company operating in the country. By April, Chevron had achieved a daily production of approximately 100,000 barrels, with plans to add another 50,000 barrels by the year’s end.
Despite Chevron’s efforts, it is unlikely that Venezuela’s oil production will be significant enough to restore balance to the market given the current circumstances. Even a minor shift in exports from Iran, Russia, or Saudi Arabia would have a much more substantial impact on the market.
Crude Prices Expected to Stay Strong Through Winter
by Avi Salzman
As the winter season approaches, crude prices are expected to remain tight in the physical markets, limiting downside momentum. This outlook was described by Edward Moya, an analyst at OANDA, who emphasizes the ongoing tightness in the market.
The current state of physical markets points to a sustained strength in crude prices, even as we head into the colder months. Moya’s analysis reinforces the idea that any downward pressure on prices might be limited given the overall market tightness.
It is worth noting that this view aligns with the general sentiment among industry experts, who anticipate a continued strength in crude prices throughout the winter season. As a result, market participants and investors should closely monitor these developments, as they may impact various sectors within the energy industry.