(Adds source comment, oil price economic background, recent outages)
By Rodrigo Viga Gaier
RIO DE JANEIRO, March 1 (Reuters) - Brazil’s state-run oil company, Petroleo Brasileiro SA, plans to increase oil platform maintenance shutdowns through June, taking advantage of low prices and low demand to fix and upgrade equipment, two sources told Reuters on Monday.
Production of oil and natural gas in Brazil by Petrobras, as the company is known, fell 7.1 percent in January from December, primarily because of maintenance.
“The planned outages will happen at units that produce a lot,” said the first source, who has direct knowledge of Petrobras operations but is not authorized to speak to the press.
Petrobras did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
“The strategy is linked to the economic situation,” the source said, adding that the outages are occurring in the Campos and Santos basins. “It’s the time push forward the outages.”
Brazil’s economy is shrinking at the fastest pace in decades, causing a decline in domestic demand for fuel.
Brent crude, a benchmark for world oil prices, has fallen nearly 40 percent in the last 12 months and reached a 12-year low in January, reflecting abundant supply and easing demand.
“A decline in Brent and lower demand have, without a doubt, favored the strategy to do the maintenance now,” said a second source who also has direct knowledge of Petrobras operations.
Despite the increase in planned shutdowns, Petrobras expects to maintain Brazilian oil production close to 2015 levels of 2.128 million barrels a day, the first source said.
The company’s goal for 2016 is to increase output 0.7 percent to 2.145 million barrels a day, the source added.
In January maintenance outages occurred at three Campos and Santos fields: the 120,000 barrel-a-day P-58 platform in the Parque de Baleias group of oilfields; the FPSO Cidade de Mangaratiba, a floating production, storage and offloading ship that produces 130,000 barrels a day in the Lula Field; and the 50,000 barrel-a-day P-48 platform in the Barracuda/Caratinga fields. (Writing by Jeb Bloun; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)