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Venezuela oil output likely to fall to 500,000 b/d by end-2019: US State Department official

Washingotn — Venezuelan oil production is expected to fall to 500,000 b/d by the end of the year, largely from the impact of US sanctions on PDVSA, the country's state-owned oil company, Elliott Abrams, the US State Department's special representative for Venezuela, said Wednesday at a US House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee hearing.

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Venezuelan production dropped 10,000 b/d to 1.16 million b/d in January from 2.4 million b/d in December 2015, according to the latest S&P Global Platts OPEC production survey.

The US Energy Information Administration said Tuesday that Venezuelan output slid to 1.22 million b/d in January from 1.25 million b/d in December.

On January 28, the US unveiled sweeping sanctions on PDVSA, imposing a de facto ban on US imports of Venezuelan crude oil and an immediate prohibition on US exports of diluent to Venezuela. PDVSA uses diluent, particularly heavy naphtha, in the production and transport of its heavy crude oil.

During the hearing Wednesday, Sandra Oudkirk, deputy assistant secretary in State's Bureau of Energy Resources, said the US was working to avoid supply disruptions, particularly in Caribbean and Central American markets.

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Oudkirk said disruptions caused by sanctions were "unlikely" mainly because of the increase in US oil production and exports. "We believe disruptions are unlikely since oil markets are adequately supplied," Oudkirk said.

Oudkirk said the revival of Venezuela's oil sector was "essential" to the South American country's economic recovery, which is why the US has granted general licenses for some US companies in Venezuela's upstream sector allowing them to continue their work while sanctions are in effect. Under one general license, Chevron, Halliburton, Schlumberger, Baker Hughes and Weatherford International were authorized to continue work in Venezuela for at least six months.

"The oil and gas sector is the key pillar of the Venezuelan economy, and it will be going forward," Oudkirk said. "Keeping the US corporate presence there with their best practices ... is, we believe, one of the best ways to ensure that in the future Venezuela is able to return to prosperity and an economy that functions normally."

-- Brian Scheid, brian.scheid@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Valarie Jackson, newsdesk@spglobal.com