Fuel shortages in Venezuela are so bad amid the deepening crisis at its state oil firm that Venezuelans are stealing crude oil from idle oilfields and processing it at home to make low-quality gasoline, workers at PDVSA, and people with knowledge of the events have told Reuters At the idled oilfield La Concepcion in western Venezuela, for example, people have made holes in the pipelines that were used to transport the crude to storage tanks. PDVSA employees are ready to accept bribes not to report such thefts as their meager salaries quickly evaporate with the hyperinflation, Reuters’ sources say.

After stealing crude from idled fields, Venezuelans then try to process it into fuel with makeshift refining tools, and the resulting gasoline is low-quality and damaging to car engines.

The quantities of stolen crude are small, but they nevertheless show the desperation of Venezuelan people, who have been suffering for several years from the economic collapse in the country sitting atop of the world’s biggest crude oil reserves. This year, acute fuel shortages added to the crisis and the pandemic to make life even harder for Venezuelans.

Venezuela’s 1.3-million-bpd refining capacity is mostly offline due to the cash crunch at PDVSA and Venezuela, the crumbling industry, and years of lack of investment in maintenance and repairs.

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Venezuela has seen some reprieve recently in its fuel shortage problem after Iranian tankers shipped gasoline and refining components to the Latin American country in open defiance of U.S. sanctions.

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Nicolas Maduro’s regime tried to alleviate the fuel shortage in the country, but a new scheme of subsidized gasoline failed to put an end to the long lines in which Venezuelans queued to fill their cars with fuel. Despite the shipments from Iran, Venezuelans continued to queue for gasoline.

Meanwhile, Venezuela’s oil exports continue to crumble, to a low of 359,000 bpd in October. 

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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