By Daniel Pickard and Karima Tawfik, Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney
This update highlights two key oil and gas energy issues of significance for the start of 2023: the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) has authorized Chevron to operate in Venezuela; and the U.S. is imposing duties on oil country tubular goods (OCTG) from Argentina, Mexico, Russia and Korea.
OFAC Authorizes Chevron Operations in Venezuela
In a significant shift in a years-long U.S. policy and the signal of a possible beginning of Venezuela’s re-entry into the international oil market, OFAC is authorizing Chevron to resume limited natural resource extraction operations in Venezuela. On November 26, 2022, OFAC issued Venezuela General License 41 (“GL 41”), a six-month license for Chevron to resume operations, after Venezuela’s President Maduro reached a humanitarian agreement with the main opposition party and vowed to continue talks regarding democratization. GL 41 is valid through May 26, 2023 and can be revoked at any time.
Chevron, the only remaining active U.S. oil company in Venezuela, is part of a joint venture with the country’s state oil company Petróleos de Venezuela (PdVSA) (collectively, Chevron JV), but has until now been barred by sanctions from operations there. GL 41 authorizes Chevron to produce and import crude oil and petroleum products from Venezuela.
OFAC’s decision also allows for U.S. service oil providers – including Halliburton, SLB, Baker Hughes and Weatherford – to continue certain work for Chevron JV operations in Venezuela. According to a Treasury Department FAQ, non-U.S. persons generally will not risk U.S. sanctions exposure for facilitating transactions authorized by GL 41. Notably, GL 41 prohibits Chevron from paying any taxes or royalties to the government of Venezuela, and profits earned will go toward the repayment of government debt to Chevron, according to U.S. officials.
GL 41 paves the way for Venezuela – which has the world’s largest oil reserves – to produce and sell more oil on the international market. More Venezuelan oil exports may consequently reduce the world’s energy dependence on Russia and countries in the Middle East. The implications for other oil and gas companies are less clear: it remains to be seen whether further discussion between the Maduro Government and the opposition will result in the U.S. loosening additional sanctions against Venezuela.
U.S. Imposes Duties on OCTGs
In the final quarter of 2023, the U.S. imposed new dumping orders regarding OCTG from Argentina, Mexico, Russia and Korea. OCTG – a consolidation of different steel tubular products such as well casing, production tubing and drill pipe – is used to carry out drilling without any interruption.
The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) determined in late October that OCTG from these four countries are materially injuring the U.S. industry. As a result, the Department of Commerce has issued countervailing duty orders on OCTG imports from Russia and South Korea, and antidumping duty orders on OCTG imports from Argentina, Mexico and Russia.
Many in Washington believe that 2023 may be a record-breaking year for new antidumping cases. Trade remedy investigations, such as antidumping cases, are typically considered to be counter-cyclical. As fears of a recession loom, U.S. producers will likely turn to antidumping and countervailing duty cases in an attempt to obtain relief against unfairly priced imports. This may be particularly true in regard to imports from Russia, especially in light of the fact that in the last quarter of 2022 Russia was designated as a non-market economy (NME) by Commerce.
Energy Workforce Member Buchanan, Ingersoll & Rooney provides insights on international trade issues specific to energy services and technology companies. Daniel Pickard is Chair, International Trade & National Security Practice Group, and Karima Tawfik is Associate.