Chevron Faces New Venezuela Risk as Maduro Threatens Guyana

Chevron Faces New Venezuela Risk as Maduro Threatens Guyana
Nicolas Maduro speaks after casting a ballot in Caracas during a referendum on the disputed Essequibo territory on Dec. 3. Photographer: Gaby Oraa/Bloomberg

After operating for a century in Venezuela through booms, busts and US sanctions, Chevron Corp. is being tested again.

If the nation’s president, Nicolás Maduro, follows through on his threat to annex a huge swath of neighboring Guyana, analysts expect the US to reinstate sanctions and potentially revoke a license that allowed the oil supermajor to resume operating in Venezuela.

Should Maduro’s threat be “more than saber rattling, the US administration would most likely limit Chevron’s ability to operate there,” according to Shreiner Parker, Latin America managing director at research firm Rystad Energy. “Chevron themselves may choose that they wouldn’t want to be operating in a country that has invaded a sovereign neighbor,” he said by phone.

Chevron To Resume Venezuela Oil Sales As US Rules Ease
Chevron offices in Caracas. The US granted the oil supermajor permission to resume operations in Venezuela late last year.

Chevron, which opened its first office in Venezuela in 1923, didn’t immediately reply to requests for comment.

Maduro says he will grant new oil exploration licenses in Essequibo and order companies already working in the area to leave. Guyana is intensifying security measures and Brazil’s military has increased its presence along the border. The US, meanwhile, has called on Venezuela to respect the territory as Guyana’s until the matter is settled in international court.

On Thursday, Guyana Vice President Bharrat Jagdeo urged oil companies operating there to ignore Maduro’s order to leave, saying the government will defend its sovereignty.

“Any attempts to explore for petroleum by his state oil companies or state companies in our territory will be seen as an incursion by Guyana,” Jagdeo said in a news conference.

The feud comes as Maduro’s political opposition consolidates ahead of a presidential election next year. Polls show challenger María Corina Machado leading the incumbent, which is why many analysts see the Essequibo threat as political bluster meant to lift nationalist spirits and rally the socialist government’s core supporters.

Read more:
Lula Reluctantly Becomes Mediator in Venezuela-Guyana Crisis
Guyana Boosts Security, Engages US to Defend Land from Venezuela
Repsol, Eni Set to Renew Oil Terms in Venezuela with Eye on Gas
Secret Talks, Oil Sanctions: Inside a US-Venezuela Breakthrough

Maduro claimed an overwhelming victory in a plebiscite Sunday that put five questions on whether the oil-rich piece of territory about the size of Florida should be governed by Venezuela. Some 95% of voters backed the government’s position, but turnout numbers — which critics say were inflated — fell well short of Maduro’s target.

“We believe the referendum served as a demonstration of support for Maduro’s policies and an attempt to build a unification sentiment among voters,” Luiz Hayum, a Latin America upstream analyst at Wood Mackenzie, said by email. “But we believe there’s a very low chance that it will escalate into a wide armed conflict.”

In theory, the oil fields off Guyana that Chevron is buying into with its $53 billion takeover of Hess Corp., which partners with Exxon Mobil Corp. in Guyana, could also be in jeopardy due to Maduro’s threat. But analysts see Venezuela taking over that offshore production as unlikely due in part to significant logistical challenges the South American nation is unequipped to handle. Chevron expects its Hess deal to close in the first half of 2024.

Analysts nonetheless caution that Maduro is an irrational actor surrounded by sycophants who don’t always provide the president with empirical facts. That could lead Maduro to make decisions that disrupt Venezuela’s efforts to boost oil output, and bring in much-needed revenue, now that the US has eased sanctions.


Comments - Please in order to comment.

  • Geoff Coles says:

    Mbabula, Pandor, others at ANC Central, plus the EFF of course love everything Venezuela….. even if it means invading Guyana, and its wealth.

    Does Ramaphosa know?

  • Cornay Bester says:

    Wagner is in Venezuela. Wagner is in Maduro. One doesn’t need a crystal ball to see who benefits from another conflict.

Please peer review 3 community comments before your comment can be posted

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