(Recasts with comment from Pemex reaffirming January target, adds quotes, details on investments, byline)
By Robert Campbell
MEXICO CITY, March 3 Mexico reaffirmed its goal of producing 756,000 barrels per day of oil this year at its ailing Cantarell field, despite a presentation to bondholders on Tuesday that appeared to show a 7 percent cut in the closely watched target.
"Estimated crude oil production for the Cantarell project is approximately 700,000 bpd during 2009," state oil company Pemex [PEMX.UL] said in a document accompanying its fourth-quarter results presentation.
A Pemex spokesman later denied that the figure implied a change in production expectations at the struggling oil field.
"The forecast from the beginning of the year that Cantarell will produce about 750,000 bpd is unchanged," Pemex spokesman Carlos Ramirez said.
Pemex Chief Executive Jesus Reyes Heroles announced this year's target of 756,000 bpd for Cantarell in a presentation to the Mexican Senate in January.
Oil market watchers and, increasingly, foreign investors in Mexico are paying close attention to Cantarell's decline, which has placed Mexico's position as a major oil exporter at risk, threatening a major source of government revenues and foreign exchange.
Pemex has struggled to control the relentless decline of Cantarell since its production peaked in 2004 at more than 2 million bpd, nearly two-thirds of Mexico's total oil output.
Mexican crude oil output fell in January to 2.685 million bpd, its lowest level since Nov. 1995 and 9.2 percent lower than a year earlier. Production at Cantarell slid 38 percent to 772,000 bpd.
Pemex plans to pump between 2.7 million and 2.8 million bpd of crude in 2009, with the decline in output from Cantarell being compensated by additional production from new projects expected in the second half of the year.
The company plans to invest $16.899 billion this year in new oil production capacity, including nearly $2.2 billion at Cantarell to optimize production. (Editing by John Picinich)