CARACAS -- Venezuela's weekly oil basket fell to its lowest since June of 2012 as oil prices around the world moderated even as crises in Ukraine, Syria, Libya, Iraq and Israel boiled over as international oil markets seemed well-supplied.
According to figures released by the Venezuela Ministry of Energy and Petroleum, the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending August 15 was $91.95, down $0.27 from the previous week's $92.22.
WTI in New York averaged $97.25 -- down $0.31 -- for the week, while Brent crude traded in London averaged $103.80 -- down $1.18 from the previous week.
According to Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2014 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude is now $96.57. In 2013, it was $99.49, down from 2012's $103.42 and 2011's $101.06, but higher than 2010's $72.43, and much higher than 2009’s average price of $57.01.
In 2013, WTI averaged $97.96 while Brent averaged $108.70. Prior to 2010, Brent and the heavier Venezuelan crude had historically traded below WTI.
Venezuela's basket set its highest weekly average on July 18, 2008, when it hit $126.46 before economies around the world began crashing under the weight of expensive oil and crashing sub-prime debt.
The United States is the largest importer of Venezuela’s oil exports.
According to the US Department of Energy, Venezuela was the fourth-largest supplier of imported crude oil and petroleum products to the United States behind Canada, Saudi Arabia, and Mexico. U.S. imports from Venezuela have been on an overall decline in recent years. In 2013, the United States imported 797,000 bbl/d of crude oil and petroleum products from Venezuela, a decline of 49% from a decade ago.
Venezuela sends a large share of its oil exports to the United States because of the proximity and the operation of sophisticated U.S. Gulf Coast refineries specifically designed to handle heavy Venezuelan crude.
While U.S. imports of primarily crude oil from Venezuela have been on the decline, U.S. exports of petroleum products to Venezuela have increased largely because of Venezuela’s tight finances that leave it unable to invest and maintain its own domestic refineries. A decade ago, the United States exported 7,000 barrels per day to Venezuela. In 2013, the United States sent Venezuela 84,000 barrel per day of petroleum products, primarily methyl tertiary butyl ether (MTBE), intended for blending in gasoline, motor gasoline, and distillate fuel oil.
Oil is the main export of Venezuela and provides most of the country's foreign currency.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2013 net exports from Venezuela totaled nearly 1.7 million barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum products, a significant decrease since the peak of 3.1 million barrels per day in 1997.
According to the Oil & Gas Journal (OGJ), in the beginning of 2014, Venezuela had nearly 298 billion barrels of proved oil reserves, the largest in the world. The next largest proved oil reserves are in Saudi Arabia with 266 billion barrels and Canada with 173 billion barrels.