The Orinoco projects were the most expensive to set up in Venezuela because they include industrial plants known as upgraders that convert sludgy oil into a product foreign refiners can process. Those cost $3.8 billion at PetroPiar. Chevron was investing about $700 million a year in the country even after Chávez’s nationalization, Moshiri said in 2014. It “built those upgraders in the middle of the jungle,” says Russ Dallen, managing partner at brokerage Caracas Capital Markets. “How do you explain walking away from that?”


This news may be bad for the future of Venezuela’s public finances, but it puts Chevron in a privileged position. Although many rivals may avoid Venezuela because of its difficult operating environment and low-quality crude, Chevron already has more than $1 billion worth of complex infrastructure in place to deal with both. “The ideal outcome is to still have the property when the regime ends,” says Dallen of Caracas Capital Markets. “I think their goal is to outlast Maduro.”