By Carlos Camacho
CARACAS -- Venezuelan oil production fell again to 1,436,000 oil barrels a day, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries reported on Monday, while the Latin American nation’s oil ministry also admits to an output reduction, but not as steep.
Based on “secondary sources” (from shipping firms, energy analysts and media reports) OPEC had Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA and the few remaining oil partners producing 41,700 oil barrels less between March and April of this year, with crude oil production down to 1.436 million b/d, the lowest output level since the 1949.
Venezuela contends its oil production is still a smidgen higher at 1.505 million bpd, although in reporting said figures to OPEC it also admits to a 4,000 barrels a day loss in production since March.
The difference between secondary and primary sources, which used to be of about half a million barrels when Hugo Chavez was president, is now of 60,000 b/d. When Chavez took over, initiating his "Bolivarian Revolution" and "Socialism for the 21st Century", Venezuela was producing at a near all-time post 1976 nationalization record of 3.5 million barrels a day.
The fall in production has been dramatic. Venezuela claimed to have been producing 2.317 million bpd by the end of 2016, while OPEC counted it at slightly above 2.15 million b/d at the time.
Back when the Bolivarian Revolution started, Venezuela was the third largest supplier of oil to the United States. In February Venezuela was surpassed in importance by Colombia and has fallen to 6th largest supplier, according to the US Energy Information Administration.
The Maduro administration blames U.S. sanctions against PDVSA for some of the decline, but it bears reminding that those only came into action in August 2017. Venezuela's persecuted opposition blames Chavez and Maduro for undermining the oil industry through corruption, cronyism and chronic mismanagement.
Another reliable indicator for Venezuelan oil production, the total number of oil drilling rigs in operation, also has taken a nasty tumble, with Venezuela employing just 36 drills during April, the lowest the country has deployed since 1990, according to figures from oil services giant Baker Hughes and investment bank Caracas Capital.