The outbreak of Venezuelan political crisis since the first week of December is starting to impact US oil supplies, said the US Department of Energy. Caracas is under siege as a result of growing demands for President Hugo Chavez to resign.

In a report last week, the DoE said that lower apparent crude oil imports from Venezuela have been partially offset by higher imports from other sources, particularly to the West Coast. Crude oil inventories and refinery inputs on the Gulf Coast have also begun to reflect this reduction in imports. EIA expects further impacts to be evident in the coming weeks.

US crude oil refinery inputs averaged 14.6 million barrels per day during the week ending December 20, a decrease of 200,000 b/d from the previous week. The decline occurred largely in PADD III (Gulf Coast), with smaller, offsetting changes in the other regions. Despite the drop in inputs, refinery output for motor gasoline and jet fuel rose, while distillate fuel production was lower than in the previous week.

It said: “US crude oil imports (including imports going into the Strategic Petroleum Reserve) averaged 9.1 million b/d, down nearly 300,000 b/d from the previous week. Crude oil imports have averaged 9.5 million b/d over the last four weeks, or about 500,000 b/d more than averaged during the same four-week period last year.

“It appears that the strikes in Venezuela have reduced crude oil imports from that country significantly, only partially offset by increased imports from elsewhere. Meanwhile, total motor gasoline imports (including both finished gasoline and gasoline blending components) averaged over 1 million b/d last week, for the first time since the week ending November 1.

“Distillate fuel imports averaged about 400,000 b/d last week, down more than 200,000 b/d from the week before.”

Total product supplied over the last four-week period averaged nearly 20.1 million b/d, or about 5% more than the same period last year. Over the last four weeks, motor gasoline demand is up 2.3%, kerosene-jet fuel demand is up 14.8%, and distillate fuel demand is up 11.4% compared to the same four-week period last year.