By Marianna Parraga
HOUSTON (Reuters) -U.S. oil company Chevron Corp is sending two oil tankers to Venezuela, one of which will load the first cargo of crude destined for the United States in nearly four years, according to a person familiar with the matter and shipping data.
On Friday, a Chevron-chartered vessel approached the South American country’s waters to pick up a cargo of Venezuelan crude. A second tanker carrying a cargo of diluents to a Chevron oil joint venture is due to arrive in the country early next month, the person said.
The U.S. last month issued a 6-month license to Chevron authorizing it to take an expanded role at four Venezuelan oil joint ventures that produce, process and export oil, and to bring their oil to the United States.
A Chevron spokesman declined to comment, citing a policy of not discussing commercial matters.
Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA did not immediately reply to a request for comment.
The U.S. license will reopen oil flows that were shut by U.S. sanctions nearly four years ago. The license was one of Washington’s first steps to ease sanctions on the country as an incentive for Venezuela to work with opposition leaders on a presidential election in late 2023.
Washington officials have said further easing of Venezuelan oil sanctions could come with a reinstatement of excluded political candidates and election observers.
The Bahamas-flagged tanker Caribbean Voyager is set to load Venezuelan oil for exports to the United States in the coming days, while the Marshall Islands-flagged UACC Eagle is sailing to Venezuela’s Jose oil port to discharge naphtha for the joint venture Petropiar, according to the person and Refinitiv Eikon vessel monitoring data.
The cargoes are the first under the U.S. Treasury Department’s November license allowing the U.S. oil major to expand its operations in the South American country.
U.S. President Joe Biden’s administration previously had authorized European oil companies to receive Venezuelan crude to recoup pending debt, removed individual sanctions on some Venezuelans, and released relatives of Venezuela’s first lady who were convicted of drug trafficking charges.
Chevron earlier this year had requested an broader license that would allow it to take operational control of its joint ventures in Venezuela, but Washington opted for a limited authorization set to be scalable as political talks progress.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga in Houston; editing by Gary McWilliams and Chizu Nomiyama)