If you look down below, you’ll see one of my first second post, Statistical Battle I: Rig counts. By the title, you might guess that I’m planning a few other Statistical Battles. The next one will be on Venezuela’s oil output. And I need your help.
Anyone who follows Venezuela knows that the country runs on oil money. So everyone wants to know how much money that is. It’s not simple to figure out.
The Energy and Oil Ministry publishes a weekly price for the standardized “Petroleum Basket” that has little to do with the proportions of items actually exported. An oil ministry official told me that the makeup of the basket was published years ago in the Gaceta Oficial, but I have never been able to find it, and no one I’ve asked has had it. So the price per barrel has error bars of an indeterminate length.
But if you want to see error bars, you need to look at the oil production and export figures. Here are a few outside estimates, measured in barrels a day:
International Energy Agency (PDF) 2.23 million U.S. Energy Information Administration
(only updated through December, excludes condensate)
2 million OPEC (PDF) 2.29 million Bloomberg 2.29 million Platts 2.22 million Petroleum Intelligence Weekly 2.65 million
The government has started sending (through an oddly back-channel method) a monthly report on how many barrels of each type of crude and condensate were reported for royalty purposes, the name and cargo of each tanker ship that embarks from a Venezuelan terminal, the domestic dispatches at each fuel terminal, and an independent tally of the bills of lading of outgoing and incoming tankers.
In the latest mailing, the government says oil production in February was:
Ministry of Oil and Energy
(and no, the link doesn’t go to the report)
2.89 million barrels a day — 9% higher than the highest of the outside estimates, and 45 percent higher than the estimate from Washington. That’s error bars. But it’s almost identical to the 2.87 million that you get when you add up the country’s self-reported net exports and domestic sales. So at the least, the ministry is being internally consistent.
When the government started sending its report, I Petroleum Intelligence Weekly revised its estimate upward by something like 500,000 barrels a day. If the others had followed, at least there would be a cluster vaguely near the official number. But instead, most of the outside estimators have glanced at the Venezuela government mailings and more or less dismissed them without public disclosure or discussion.
I’ve heard that back when the government claimed the production was 3.3 million barrels a day, a bunch of experts got together in Caracas to discuss the numbers, and concluded that the EIA-IEA-OPEC range was several hundred thousand barrels a day too low. As far as I know, no one has held a similar discussion since the government started releasing its monthly numbers.
Nobody has the whole picture. Given that I am seeing lots of big names in the access logs of this website, I hope that some smart people can write with their thoughts of what is going on. If you prefer to send an e-mail rather than leaving a comment, that’s great with me — email@example.com. Your confidentiality is assured if you need it. The only thing I don’t welcome is uninformed opinion. Be in touch.