Conoco aiming to seize oil cargoes near Citgo’s Aruba terminal: sources

(Reuters) – U.S. oil company ConocoPhillips has brought court actions to seize at least two cargoes of crude and fuel near a terminal operated by PDVSA subsidiary Citgo Petroleum in Aruba, according to three sources familiar with the matter.

Conoco is moving aggressively to enforce last month’s $2 billion arbitration award by the International Chamber of Commerce over Venezuela’s 2007 expropriation of two projects in the South American nation.

Aruba’s prime minister, Evelyn Wever-Croes, told journalists on Tuesday that the situation with Conoco in the Caribbean is worrisome. The seizures could threaten the region’s fuel supplies.

Government officials and the management of the refinery, which is owned by the Aruban government and operated by Citgo, are organizing a contingency plan to avoid a situation similar to Curacao and Bonaire, she said.

Conoco in recent days seized Bonaire’s BOPEC oil terminal owned by PDVSA and fuel inventories at the Isla refinery in Curacao.

“What belongs to Citgo belongs to PDVSA, but a judge has to rule on it,” Wever-Croes said.

Aruba has diverse suppliers, she said, saying: “We shouldn’t have any problem if we buy from others.”

Daren Beaudo, a Conoco spokesman, said on Tuesday that the U.S. company sent representatives to the Caribbean this week to meet with local officials and address their concerns over Conoco’s efforts to enforce the arbitration ruling.

Last week, Curacao officials said the Isla refinery would have to halt refining operations once its available inventories were exhausted because new shipments of Venezuelan crude are not being sent to the region.

“It is PDVSA that has failed to honor our award by ignoring the judgment of the ICC tribunal and other local court orders,” Beaudo said in an emailed statement.

There were a half dozen tankers around Aruba on Tuesday. Two, the Atlantic Lily and Grimstad, were loaded with oil and fuel, according to Thomson Reuters vessel tracking data.

Citgo Petroleum typically uses Aruba terminal to store Venezuelan and other crudes for supplying its U.S. refineries. The unit is also responsible for supplying Aruba with fuels.

Reporting by Sailu Urribarri in Jacksonville, Florida, and Marianna Parraga in Houston; editing by Jonathan Oatis and Leslie Adler



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