ONGC Videsh Ltd, the overseas arm of state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corp (ONGC), is seeking $537 million worth of crude oil in lieu of cash due for its share of sales from a Venezuelan oilfield.
ONGC Videsh Ltd owns 40 per cent of the San Cristobal field and had invested about $190 million in the project in 2008. State-run Petroleos de Venezuela S.A., or PDVSA, holds the remaining stake.
"We have not been paid for our share of oil from the field for last few years," a company official said.
San Cristobal project covers an area of 160.18 square kilometers in the Zuata Subdivision of proliferous Orinoco Heavy Oil belt in Venezuela. The field currently produces about 28,000 barrels a day, down from a peak of 38,000 bpd.
The official said ONGC Videsh Ltd had received its dividend from sale of crude oil produced from the field totaling $56.224 million for 2008. But dividends for 2009 to 2013 totalling $537.631 million remained unpaid due to cash flow difficulties being faced by PDVSA.
During 2015-16, ONGC Videsh Ltd's share of crude oil production was 0.585 million tonnes as compared to 0.645 million tonnes during the previous fiscal. It's share of investment in the project was Rs 2,599.71 crore ($486.69 million) till March 31, 2016.
Since PdVSA is facing a cash crunch, ONGC Videsh Ltd wants its share of revenue from the field be paid in form of crude oil. "We want to be given physical oil which we can sell in international market to recover our dues," he said.
Venezuela, the cash-strapped OPEC member and holder of the world's biggest oil reserves, has been unable to pay foreign partners on some of its projects as revenues slumped along with crude prices and as funds were diverted to social programs and fuel subsidies.
The Latin American nation earns almost all of its export revenue from oil.
It is already repaying loans outstanding to China with crude and ONGC Videsh Ltd is keen a similar deal.
Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan had discussed the past dues with visiting Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino last month.
Another option was to deduct the outstanding from the money Indian firms like Reliance Industries and Essar Oil pay to import crude oil from Venezuela.
But since all of the revenue from oil sales is budgeted by Venezuelan government, that option is ruled out, the official said.
Venezuela is India's fourth largest source of crude oil, supplying some 23.6 million tonnes or 12 per cent of the country's annual import in 2015-16.
ONGC Videsh Ltd, along with Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and Oil India Ltd, also holds 18 per cent stake in Venezuela's Carabobo-1 project, which currently produces about 16,000 bpd of oil and is expected to
reach 90,000 bpd by end of 2017.