(Adds exports data, crude production background)
MEXICO CITY, Feb 22 (Reuters) - Mexico’s Pemex produced 1.62 million barrels of crude per day in January, less than any month in almost three decades, the state-owned oil company said on Friday, underscoring the challenges facing a government that vows to pump far more in a few years.
The company’s crude output for the month was the lowest since at least 1990, when Pemex’s publicly available records begin.
The firm’s crude oil output has declined for 14 consecutive years since hitting a peak of 3.4 million bpd in 2004, as Mexico’s most prolific fields have dried up and new ones to replace them have not been discovered.
Pemex’s crude production averaged 1.81 million bpd in 2018.
The company’s crude oil exports also fell in January to total 1.07 million bpd, down nearly 10 percent from 2018 average shipments of 1.18 million bpd.
President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, who took office in December and ran on a promise of strengthening the ailing company, long a national treasure, has said he will grow its output to around 2.5 million bpd by the end of his six-year term in 2024.
Lopez Obrador has yet to fully outline how Pemex alone will be able to reverse the long-standing slide, but he did push through a larger budget for the company this year, in addition to a fresh capital injection from the government and lower tax bill.
The veteran leftist has canceled oil and gas auctions open to private and foreign oil companies and he has said he will not allow Pemex to enter into any additional near-term joint venture partnerships with other firms.
Both strategies were linchpins of the previous government’s efforts to grow oil output in Mexico from both Pemex’s operations as well as those of new entrants into the market like U.S.-based major Exxon Mobil and France’s Total . (Reporting by Ana Isabel Martinez; Editing by David Alire Garcia)