May 19, 2016 / 12:47 PM / 2 years ago

Venezuela's PDVSA says oil output stable in first quarter

CARACAS, May 19 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA said its oil output was stable in the first quarter of the year, knocking down reports of declining production due to a cash crunch and shortages, though the company didn’t provide figures.

Production increases in the extra-heavy crude Orinoco Belt have offset declines in mature fields in the west of the OPEC country, the Caracas-based company said in a statement Thursday.

That contradicts data provided to the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) through “direct communication,” which show Venezuela’s oil production declining.

Crude output fell to some 2.53 million barrels per day in the first quarter of 2016 compared with 2.72 million in the same quarter of last year, OPEC data shows.

Consulting firm IPD Latin America has forecast output could fall further to around 2.35 million bpd this year, amid drilling delays, inadequate maintenance and a shortage of blending fuel.

Venezuela is mired in a deep economic crisis which has led to shortages of spare parts, theft of material, a brain drain, and major debts with service providers.

A shaky energy grid and equipment problems have also hit the country’s refinery circuit and ports.

Home to the world’s biggest oil reserves, Venezuela often blames problems on saboteurs seeking to subvert the socialist government. (Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Bernadette Baum)

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