Washington signaled it could impose sanctions on Venezuela's crude exports as Caracas descends further into political and economic turmoil.
Despite soaring tensions between the Trump administration and the regime of Nicolas Maduro, the two nations still share a crucial link: oil. The International Energy Agency said in September that the global oil supply reached 100 million barrels a day for the first time ever in August, boosted by rising production in the US and several OPEC nations.
Troubles in Venezuela, owner of the world's biggest oil reserves, provided a boost as the week wound to a close.
Now, that tight oil relationship is coming under enormous strain.
But it's not supply, demand, sanctions on Iran's oil industry or political upheaval in oil producer Venezuela that the chief executive of Total is anxious about.
RBC Capital Markets is already forecasting an additional drop of 300,000 to 500,00 barrels a day from Venezuela in 2019.
Still, the long-term trend is a declining dependence on Venezuelan oil. But RBC warned that U.S. sanctions could cause that figure to increase by several hundred thousand additional barrels.
Quoting the Annual Statistical Bulletin of the Organization of the Oil Exporting Countries (OPEC), the "NDTV" had stated that Venezuela had 296.5 billion barrels of oil under its control.
"The evolving situation in Venezuela appears capable of delaying our expected test of $50 support".
Venezuela's other leading oil customers are China and India. The deliveries are made in exchange for payments towards Venezuela's massive debt.
"The potential is that the U.S.is starting to put things in motion and the risk for an acceleration in the decline in production from Venezuela is increasing", Petromatrix strategist Olivier Jakob said. "Looking ahead, consumer prices will rise 10 million percent in 2019, according the report".
Will Trump take tough stance?
"Refiners would likely incur increased transportation costs to access alternatives" to Venezuelan oil, the Simmons analysts wrote.
Venezuelan oil only accounts for 6% of United States oil imports, but an oil embargo could cause the USA to strain its domestic supply.
"It could lead to all of its oil production going offline and chaos in the country", said McMonigle. That's because light oil yields more gasoline than diesel, so as fuel producers seek to ramp up diesel production, they are piling up on excess gasoline. They've come to rely on the cheap and extra heavy crude found in Venezuela.
Venezuelan oil exports to the US have declined steadily over the years, falling particularly sharply over the past decade as its production plummeted amid its long economic and political crisis. OPEC's latest production cuts tightened the supply of heavy crude from Saudi Arabia.
With the USA considering sanctions against Venezuelan crude, there's little doubt that Gulf Coast refiners would look north to Canada to fill the gap. East Coast refineries have not imported Venezuelan crude since 2017, according the S&P report.
"The crude quality mismatch will grow even bigger", Paola Rodriguez-Masiu, an analyst at Rystad Energy, said Thursday in a report.
Chevron, which has operations in Venezuela, declined to comment on the situation there. -Venezuelan energy trade, a move that would be potentially devastating to Venezuela.
And Venezuela relies on U.S. products to keep its oil industry afloat.
USA sanctions could block the sale of United States diluents to Venezuela.
It's unclear if the external pressure on Maduro will cause him to lose his grip on power.