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    Valero Supplies Strong

    Strike in Venezuela could present distribution opportunities for the San Antonio refiner.

    SAN ANTONIO -- Independent refiner/marketer Valero Energy Corp. said it is well supplied with crude oil for its refineries despite the prolonged national strike in key exporter Venezuela that has left other U.S. fuel producers lacking feedstock.

    "We are well supplied with feedstock for our refineries through January and at least the first part of February," a spokeswoman for the San Antonio-based company told Reuters. Valero produces roughly 2 million barrels of gasoline and distillates per day from its 12 North American refineries.

    The strike in Venezuela against leftist President Hugo Chavez has entered its fourth week, cutting shipments and forcing at least three U.S. oil refining firms to cut back production due to a lack of feedstock.

    Hovensa LLC, a joint venture between Amerada Hess Corp. and Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA said it substantially reduced production at its 545,000 barrel-per-day (bpd) refinery in U.S. Virgin Islands, while ConocoPhillips Inc. said it cut runs by 40,000 bpd at its plant in Sweeny, Texas.

    Lyondell-Citgo, a joint venture between Lyondell Chemicals and PDVSA's Citgo, also reduced runs at its Pasadena, Texas, refinery by 60,000 bpd because of the shortage of Venezuelan crude, sources familiar with the refinery operations said last week.

    All three of those companies fall in the top five U.S. buyers of Venezuelan crude oil, having taken a combined 650,000 bpd during the first nine months of 2002, the report said.

    Valero, which depended on about 47,000 bpd of Venezuelan crude during the same period, said it is not facing the same problems as "the other companies that have announced they are feeling an impact," the spokeswoman said.

    Valero added that the strike has opened some new markets for its fuel in Central American and Caribbean countries typically supplied by Venezuela, including Honduras, Panama, Guatemala and the Dominican Republic.

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