Venezuela proposes novel OPEC oil blending deal to fight for market share
* PDVSA head Del Pino says aim is to increase market competitiveness
* Proposal made at regional summit, and to OPEC country ambassadors
* Venezuela has already imported Algerian light crude for blending
By Andrew Cawthorne
ORINOCO BELT, Venezuela, April 19 (Reuters) - Venezuela has launched talks this month on a novel plan to blend the country's heavy crude with light oil from other OPEC allies, seeking to create a new variety that can compete against swelling U.S. and Canadian supplies.
The proposal, which would expand on a pilot scheme involving Algerian oil last year, envisions supplying refineries built for medium-grade crudes rather than the light oil that has become plentiful as a result of the North American shale boom, said the head of state oil company PDVSA, Eulogio del Pino.
Del Pino said he raised the idea during the Summit of the Americas in Panama earlier this month and at a meeting with ambassadors from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries in Caracas last week. He did not specify how other members had responded or what the next steps would be.
The talks suggest that PDVSA's new leadership is eyeing creative ways to retain its U.S. market share at a time of intensifying competition, and to ride out a deep slump in global oil prices that has worsened a recession in Venezuela.
The plan, if agreed, could help Venezuela get more value from its heavy grades, which are under pressure from the rapid rise in shipments of Canadian crude to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast, while giving a similar advantage to OPEC members whose lighter oil has been pushed aside by U.S. shale. Continued...