July 8, 2010 / 1:57 PM / 10 years ago

Venezuela's PDVSA recovers stolen oil equipment

* Says theft caused 60,000 bpd production loss

* Blames saboteurs for spills in Lake Maracaibo

By Daniel Wallis

CARACAS, July 8 (Reuters) - Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA said it has recovered stolen oil field equipment taken by thieves who caused a loss of production of some 60,000 barrels per day (bpd) and oil spills in western Lake Maracaibo.

PDVSA said thousands of kilos of stolen raw copper, valves and copper nickel tubing were seized by authorities this week in operations in the Latin American OPEC member.

“These criminal events were linked to acts of sabotage against the oil industry that caused damage to the environment reflected in the recent leaks in Lake Maracaibo,” PDVSA said in a statement late on Wednesday.

“The theft of this equipment had a negative impact on oil production in the order of 60,000 bpd.”

PDVSA said last week that leaks at five flow stations in Lake Maracaibo, where Venezuela produces much of its crude, were under control and that its cleanup operations would be completed within a month. [ID:nN30271608]

It blamed the spills on thieves vandalizing installations in the lake’s Urdaneta field to steal equipment.

Shipping sources said in June that several leaks in Maracaibo had forced PDVSA to anchor at least five U.S.-bound oil tankers for cleaning. Those tankers are back in service.

President Hugo Chavez nationalized 76 oil service companies in the Maracaibo area last year. Experts say the lake has the potential to produce as many as 1 million bpd of oil, but that its rate of decline has accelerated since the takeovers. (Reporting by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Pascal Fletcher and Jim Marshall)

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