Venezuela Aims To Increase 2008 Oil Output From Old Fields

CARACAS, March 17, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)

Venezuela's Oil Ministry plans to focus this year on pumping more crude from the country's western region, an area known for its mature oil wells.

The ministry will open more wells and use more drill equipment in these areas so that "in 2008, production can reach an average of 937,000 barrels a day," up from 907,000 in 2007, according to the ministry's plans outlined in its 2007 year-end report, obtained by Dow Jones Newswires.

With this in mind, the ministry will drill 485 new wells and will repair another 374 oil wells, the document showed. Venezuela's western provinces include the oil-rich Maracaibo lake, as well as the country's Paraguana refining center.

State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PdVSA, aims to bring output to 1.2 million barrels a day in the west by 2013.

Total crude output coming from Venezuela is a number few know with certainty. The government claims to produce close to 3.2 million barrels a day, but data from the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries and other sources puts total production closer to 2.4 million barrels a day.

The country has struggled with oil production since 2003 and when President Hugo Chavez fired thousands of PdVSA workers and executives following an oil strike.

Despite production problems, the Chavez administration has lately enjoyed windfall oil revenues as oil prices have reached new highs. The price for Venezuela's crude basket reached $98.63 Friday.

CARACAS, March 17, 2008 (Dow Jones Newswires)