India on Thursday discussed ways to recover over $600 million of past dues from Venezuela including recouping it from payments for oil it imports from the Latin American nation.
ONGC Videsh Ltd owns 40 per cent of the San Cristobal oilfield but has not been paid for its share of oil sales for last couple of years. OVL, in 2008, had invested about $190 million in the project where state-run Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) holds the remaining 51 per cent stake.
Oil Minister Dharmendra Pradhan today met visiting Venezuelan Foreign Minister Delcy Rodriguez and Oil Minister Eulogio del Pino and discussed bilateral energy issues, including payment of dues.
Sources said since cash-strapped Venezuela does not have hard cash to pay after oil prices slumped to a decade low, barter deals were discussed.
One of the options is to adjust the outstanding against the crude oil Indian firms like Reliance Industries and Essar Oil import from Venezuela.
The outstanding can be deducted from the payment these firms have to make to PDVSA for oil imports, sources said, adding the Venezuelean ministers were non-committal on the proposal.
Alternately, OVL can take crude oil in lieu of the cash due, they said.
Venezuela is India's fourth largest source of crude oil, supplying some 23.6 million tons or 12 per cent of the country's annual import in 2015-16.
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 on fall in oil prices, triggering triple-digit inflation. The crisis was precipitated with funds being diverted to social programmes and fuel subsidies.
Venezuela gets almost all of its export revenue from oil.
It is already repaying loans outstanding to China with crude.