HAVANA -- State-owned Cubapetroleo produced the equivalent of more than 4 million tons of oil and accompanying gas in 2008, up 1.3 percent over the previous year, state television said.
Cupet's director general for the western portion of the island, Joel Pumariega, said the deposits in that region accounted for more than 60 percent of national production.
The state company's biggest priorities for 2009 include carrying out geological studies and drilling in new areas and partnering with foreign companies.
Cuba annually produces 47 percent of the fuel it consumes, while its natural gas output generates 15 percent of the country's electricity, according to official figures.
In 2007, the Cuban energy industry said it produced 2.9 million tons of crude and 1.1 billion cubic meters (38.8 billion cubic feet) of natural gas.
Two experts said late last year that Cuban oil output will rise rapidly in the mid-term thanks to the development of new offshore reserves and that increased production could serve to strengthen the island's communist government.
The Caribbean country currently produces roughly 51,000 barrels of oil per day but it has the potential to pump 700,000 bpd by 2015, according to estimates by Terry Maris, executive director of the Center for Cuban Business Studies at Ohio Northern University.
In a lecture at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, Maris said that to achieve such an exponential increase in production Cuba will need $20 billion in investment.
He said the experience of Sudan and other non-democratic countries shows that foreign companies will invest in Cuba to develop its crude reserves despite human rights abuses and a lack of free and fair elections.
But if the United States were to lift its 47-year-old economic embargo against the communist-ruled island, Cuba's transformation into an oil economy would be much faster, Maris said.
The island currently depends on subsidized crude imports from close ally Venezuela to make up for what it does not produce at home.
Archibald Ritter, professor emeritus of economics and international affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada, agreed that Cuba's oil sector will take off in the next few years and believes that that will entail political consequences.
"If the regime lasts until 2015, it will receive a lot of funds from oil. That will strengthen it," Ritter said.
Cubapetroleo recently raised its estimate for crude reserves in the North Cuba Basin to 20 billion barrels, but the U.S. Geological Survey has not budged from its own estimate indicating that Cuba holds 4.6 billion barrels in that region.