CARACAS -- The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil rose for the fourth week in a row to its highest level in over 2 years in the wake of the hurricanes rocking Gulf of Mexico production, refining and delivery.
According to figures released by the Venezuela Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, the average price of Venezuelan crude sold by Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (PDVSA) during the week ending September 22 rose 3.9% to $50.36, up $1.91 from the previous week's $48.45.
WTI in New York averaged $51.69 -- up $1.59 -- for the week, while Brent crude traded in London averaged $57.93 -- up $2.14 from the previous week.
According to Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2017 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude is now $44.26.
Venezuela's average oil price for 2016 was $35.15, down from 2015's $44.65 and 2014's $88.42, below 2013's $98.08, 2012's $103.42 and 2011's $101.06, 2010's $72.43, and even 2009’s average price of $57.01.
In 2016, WTI averaged $43.32 -- down from 2015's $48.86 -- while Brent averaged $44.98 -- down from 2015's $53.66.
Historically, Venezuela's basket set its highest weekly average ever on July 18, 2008, when it hit $126.46 before economies around the world began crashing under the weight of expensive oil. The recent low was set January 22, 2016, when Venezuela's basket averaged just $21.63.
The United States is the largest importer of Venezuela’s oil exports.
According to the US Department of Energy, Venezuela is the third-largest supplier of imported crude oil and petroleum products to the United States, though U.S. imports from Venezuela have been on an overall decline in recent years.
In the month of November 2016, the United States imported an average of 797,000 barrels per day of crude oil and petroleum products from Venezuela, a decline of 49% from a decade ago. That makes Venezuela the third largest supplier of crude to the U.S., after Canada's 3.556 million bpd and Saudi Arabia's 1.02 million bpd. Mexico was fourth with 623,000 bpd, Iraq fifth with 414,000 bpd, Colombia sixth with 315,000 bpd, and Ecuador the seventh largest supplier with 250,000 bpd. Kuwait, Nigeria and Brazil round out the top 10 U.S. suppliers.
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.
Oil is the main export of Venezuela and provides most of the country's foreign currency.
As of 2015, 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 268 billion barrels and Canada with 173 billion barrels.
Venezuela reported to OPEC -- where Venezuela is a founding member -- that its production was 2.10 million barrels per day in August 2017. According to OPEC's calculations, Venezuela had average production of just 1.918 million barrels per day in August.
Under the November 30 OPEC agreement, Venezuela agreed to cut its production by 95,000 bpd to 1.972 million bpd beginning in January.