CARACAS -- The price Venezuela receives for its mix of medium and heavy oil rose in the first week of July.
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 July 6 rose to $69.65, up $2.58 from the previous week's $67.07.
WTI in New York averaged $73.86 -- up $3.18 -- for the week, while Brent crude traded in London averaged $77.98 -- up $1.57 from the previous week.
According to Venezuelan government figures, the average price in 2018 for Venezuela's mix of heavy and medium crude for 2018 is now $60.03.
Venezuela's average oil price for 2017 was $46.66, up from 2016's $35.15. It is higher than 2015's $44.65 but lower than 2014's $88.42, 2013's $98.08, 2012's $103.42 and 2011's $101.06, 2010's $72.43. The 2009 average was $57.01.
In 2017, WTI averaged $50.88 -- up from 2016's $43.32 -- while Brent averaged $54.73 -- up from 2016's $44.98.
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.
In 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 earlier. As Venezuela's crude production continued to collapse, by February of 2018, Venezuela was exporting just 472,000 bpd to the U.S.A., falling from the third largest supplier of crude to the U.S. to 6th.
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 had fallen to 1.533 million barrels per day in May 2018. OPEC calculated Venezuela's May oil production even lower at 1.392 million bpd.
Under 2016's OPEC agreement, Venezuela agreed to cut its production by 95,000 bpd to 1.972 million bpd. According to OPEC, Venezuela is 580,000 bpd from what it was supposed to be producing.
In 1998, the year prior to Hugo Chavez becoming president, Venezuela was producing 3.5 million bpd and had plans to increase that production go 6 to 8 million bpd by 2008. Instead, expropriations, disastrous communist economic policy, hyperinflation, corruption, and political purges and loyalist hiring have brought Venezuela's once mighty oil production to just half of what it was 20 years ago.