Venezuela is targeting a boost in oil production this year while it moves to sell barrels of crude from storage using cryptocurrency, President Nicolas Maduro said in his annual address.
Maduro said before the National Constituent Assembly (ANC) that he wants Venezuela's crude production to more than double in 2020, to 2 million barrels of oil per day from current levels of nearly 1 million bpd.
The Opec producer’s output has steadily declined since the 1990s level of more than 3 million bpd, and this malaise has worsened in recent years with the impact of US sanctions, reaching just 714,000 bpd in December 2019, according to Opec figures.
In his speech, Maduro asked oil workers, national and international companies as well as investors for their support in helping Venezuela “regain its productive capacity through the oil industry”.
To do this, the Venezuelan leader said that the government's pseudo-cryptocurrency known as the Petro has been designated as the official primary currency for all transactions by state-owned entities, including national oil company PDVSA.
Maduro decreed the sale of 4.5 million barrels of undeveloped Orinoco heavy crude reserves priced in Petros from the certified physical reserve of 30 million barrels currently maintained by PDVSA but did not name the buyers or the dates of the transactions.
He said the goal is to eventually sell PDVSA's entire oil production in Petros.
“We are preparing for a second phase that will allow more efficient use of cryptocurrency,” Maduro said.
However, US sanctions, aimed at toppling Maduro in favor of US-backed opposition leader Juan Guaido, include a prohibition on Petro transactions.
In his speech, Maduro acknowledged that US sanctions hurt the country in 2019, but he said they have failed because he remains in power and the worst of the crisis has passed.
Venezuela's own traditional currency, the bolivar, is nearly worthless and has been effectively eclipsed by the dollar in many commercial transactions inside the country.