U.S. Markets open in 7 hrs 55 mins

African nations, Iran eye Venezuela oil blend project - PDVSA Chief

By Nidhi Verma

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - Algeria, Angola, Iran and Nigeria are interested in blending their light oil with Venezuela's heavy crude to get a better price, the president of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA said on Monday.

Eulogio Del Pino, who is on a two-day official visit to New Delhi, in April announced talks 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.

"We have several countries interested in doing that because that means synergies," Del Pino said in an interview.

"Nigeria is interested, Algeria, Iran. ... Angola too," he added ahead of a meeting with Indian Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan.

The proposal, which would expand on a pilot scheme last year that involved Algerian oil, 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.

Del Pino, who took the reins of Petróleos de Venezuela, S.A. [PDVSA.UL] in September, added the company was mulling importing light crude or using its own during an upgrader maintenance scheduled for the end of the year.

PDVSA's new leadership is eyeing creative solutions at a time of intensifying market competition, and is also seeking to ride out a slump in oil prices that has worsened Venezuela's recession.


Del Pino predicted oil prices would recover in the second half of the year, driven by demand from big Asian markets like India and China.


Venezuela's current oil output stands at about 3 million barrels per day (bpd), said Del Pino, who added the South American nation is exporting about 400,000 bpd to India and about 800,000 bpd to key ally China.

The shale oil revolution has displaced African sweet grades from the U.S. market and Western sanctions against Iran's disputed nuclear programme has halved the Persian Gulf nations' overall exports.

Indian sources said Venezuela is keen to expand its oil sales in India.


DEALS EYED

Del Pino said Reliance Industries Ltd (RELI.NS), its biggest Indian oil client, is interested in several upstream and downstream projects in Venezuela.

Fellow Indian company Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC) is close to reaching a deal with PDVSA to invest in their San Cristobal joint venture, Del Pino added.

"This is one of the reasons why I have come, to close this agreement," he said, adding that pending dividends would be paid to ONGC within a year.

Del Pino said it "looks like" Venezuela has found a company to buy oil company Harvest Natural Resources Inc's stake in Petrodelta.

"The situation is very (close) to be resolved," he said, without providing the company's name.

PDVSA and Rosneft this week are poised to sign off on Russia's top oil producer increasing its stake in the Petromonagas JV, according to Del Pino.

Asked if Rosneft will be allowed to market Venezuelan oil in India, Del Pino said, "Rosneft is one of our main partners and we are exploring options not only with India but with also China as well (as) all opportunities."

Joint ventures are putting in $50 million a month via Venezuela's Simadi currency system, double from last month, he added.


(Additional reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Writing by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Richard Chang)