CARACAS, Venezuela – Venezuelan oil purchases by US energy companies saw a five-fold increase on a weekly basis from mid-February, almost reaching the level of pre-sanctions, according to the latest data released by the International Energy Agency (IEA).
According to the Paris-based agency, imports of crude oil from Venezuela to the US totaled 558,000 barrels per day during the week up to February 15, compared to 117,000 barrels per day the previous week.
Starting January 25, a few days before US sanctions went into effect, US companies imported 587,000 barrels a day.
Washington has imposed economic penalties on Venezuelan state oil giant PDVSA, freezing $7 billion of company assets. The sanctions also block payments to PDVSA accounts with Venezuelan oil buyers aimed at depositing all transactions into a separate account to which the company does not have access.
The US Treasury has granted temporary permits for the purchase of Venezuelan crude oil to foreign companies until the current agreements expire, and companies find new suppliers within the deadline set by the White House to expire on April 28.
The latest sanctions also prohibit sales of US naphtha to the Caribbean nation. Naphtha is a blend, produced from condensates of natural gas or petroleum distillates, which is used to dilute the thick and heavy oil to make it flow.
US fines have forced Caracas to buy naphtha, as well as gasoline and diesel, from Russian state oil company Rosneft, Indian conglomerate Reliance Industries, as well as Dutch commodity traders Vitol and Trafigura, according to Reuters data.
Washington and Caracas have been involved in a long diplomatic row for years. In January, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro announced a break in diplomatic relations with the United States after President Donald Trump recognized Venezuela’s National Assembly leader Juan Guaidó as interim president of the country after he unconstitutionally and illegally declared himself as so.