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Sanctions on Iran and Venezuela May Empower U.S. Rivals

May 17, 2018

“It means that OPEC oil becomes that much more necessary,” he said. “Russia also becomes a source, and if Russia can upset the U.S., they will do it.”

Iran and Venezuela, both OPEC members, remain critical suppliers on world markets, together providing roughly one of every 20 barrels. The predicaments they face are big reasons that oil prices have climbed nearly 20 percent in recent months — with Brent crude, the international benchmark, at almost $80 a barrel — threatening global economic growth.

Over the last three years, the two countries have been a seesaw of production. Although Iranian oil exports have recovered from Western sanctions that preceded the deal to restrict its nuclear development, exports from Venezuela have plummeted. Now, they could plunge together.

Venezuelan output is the lowest in three decades, falling by more than 200,000 barrels a day since late last year alone. Now, up to a third of its remaining one million barrels a day in exports are at risk because of the near-collapse of the state oil company, sanctions and the new confrontation with ConocoPhillips.

ConocoPhillips has seized cargoes at a refinery it leases in Curaçao and various storage facilities in Aruba, Bonaire and St. Eustatius to enforce a $2 billion arbitration ruling against the state oil company, Petróleos de Venezuela, known as Pdvsa.

The facilities were used to blend Venezuelan heavy crude with lighter oils, and the port in Curaçao was able to dock the largest tankers that typically send crude and other fuels across the Pacific.