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Highlights

Total Orinoco Belt output at 212,000 b/d, up from August's 140,000 b/d

Venezuela's total average production at 407,000 b/d

Light crude output has fallen 50% since March

Caracas, Venezuela — Venezuela's state-owned PDVSA and its foreign partners in the joint-venture Petrolera Sinovensa, Petromonagas and Petropiar projects have restarted production of extra-heavy crude in the country's Orinoco Belt, according to PDVSA production reports.

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All three JVs had stopped production in August. Petropiar (PDVSA 70% Chevron 30%), which had stopped operations Aug. 23 for repairs to its crude upgrader, is now averaging 50,000 b/d; Petromonagas (PDVSA 60% Russia 40%) is now producing an average 37,000 b/d; and Petrolera Sinovensa (PDVSA 60% CNPC 40%) is producing 15,000 b/d, according to the reports.

Total crude output by PDVSA and its foreign partners at their Orinoco Belt installations has averaged 212,000 b/d during the first 15 days of September, up from 140,000 b/d in August.

The Orinoco Belt, a huge field of extra heavy crudes that are acidic and have high heavy metal content, is estimated to contain reserves of 220 billion barrels.

The PDVSA production reports gave details about joint ventures between PDVSA and its foreign partners in the four main blocks into which the Orinoco Belt is divided: Carabobo, Ayacucho, Junin and Boyaca. According to the technical reports, average crude production on Sept.15 in Carabobo was 75,000 b/d, with Ayacucho producing 124,000 b/d, Junin at 3,000 b/d and Boyaca at 10,000 b/d.

In these blocks, PDVSA has formed seven joint ventures: Petrodelta, Petrooritupano, Petrolera IndoVenezolana, Petrolera Sinovensa, Petrocedeno, Petropiar and Petromonagas. Nine additional ventures are in development: Petroindependencia, Petrocarabobo, Petrojunin, Petromacareo, Petrourica, Petromiranda, Petrovictoria, Boyaca 8 and Junin 10.

The PDVSA daily production reports contain figures that are preliminary and unofficial. However, they indicate that the decline in production has been caused in part by saturation of storage tanks and recurring electrical failures that negatively impact pumping, processing and transportation of crude and low diluent quality.

Venezuela's overall oil production in August rebounded to an average 335,000 b/d, a 25,000 b/d increase from July's 310,000 b/d, according to earlier production reports.

Apart from the saturation of onshore and offshore storage tanks and the impact of export restrictions that PDVSA faces due to US sanctions, Orinoco Belt output is also being affected by the drop in the domestic production of light crudes necessary for mixing and upgrading the extra heavy oil.

Production of light crudes fell to an average 125,000 b/d in August from as much as 220,000 in March, according to previous reports. The quality of light crudes has also fallen, presenting a high water content and a viscosity below 30 degrees API.

According to the production reports, the customers of PDVSA and its partners require diluents to be light crude at least 44 degrees API as a minimum to produce the Merey upgrade from the extra-heavy crudes that measure 16 degrees API at the wellhead.

On Sept. 13, local media reported that an Iranian oil tanker unloaded 2 million barrels of condensate at the Jose terminal in eastern Venezuela. The can be used as a diluent to increase Orinoco Belt's production of extra heavy crudes.

PDVSA could not be reached immediately for comment and PDVSA's foreign partners are not authorized to comment to the press.