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HOUSTON, Dec 14 (Reuters) - Sales of Venezuelan crude to the United States bounced to 742,535 barrels per day last month, a 23 percent increase versus October but 10.5 percent less than the same month of 2015, according to Thomson Reuters trade flows data.
Larger shipments of upgraded oil from the vast Orinoco belt, Venezuela's main producing region, contributed to the growth, even though state-run PDVSA has recently struggled to pay suppliers of the products used to dilute its extra heavy oil.
PDVSA and its joint ventures sent a total of 42 crude cargoes to their customers in the United States in November versus 37 in October.
PDVSA's unit in the United States, Citgo Petroleum, which has been receiving more Venezuelan crude this year under an exchange agreement allowing the South American country to import more refined products, was the biggest importer in November.
Refining and oil firms Valero Energy, Phillips 66 and Chevron Corp followed. PDVSA also did more spot sales to U.S. customers last month.
Declining crude production has affected PDVSA's exports this year. Venezuela plans to withdraw around 95,000 bpd more in 2017 to an average of 1.97 million bpd as part of the cut agreed by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC).
The country's diluent imports have also been limited this year, affecting the formulation of exportable blends. PDVSA has bought some 12.1 million barrels of light crude and around 13 million barrels of heavy naphtha so far this year versus some 35 million barrels of diluents last year. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Alistair Bell)