(Recasts with office reopening)
MARACAIBO, Venezuela/CARACAS, Nov 8 (Reuters) - Baker Hughes’ western Venezuela office has returned to “regular operations,” the company said on Friday, after a local government earlier ordered it closed due to the company’s alleged failure to pay municipal taxes.
Before sunrise on Friday morning, Orlando Urdaneta, mayor of the La Canada de Urdaneta municipality in oil-rich Zulia state, tweeted a photo of himself outside the office of the U.S. oil services firm announcing the closure, and issued a statement calling on the company to negotiate.
But Baker Hughes was back in control of the facility by the end of the day, the company said in a statement, which did not address the tax allegations. Urdaneta did not say how much Baker Hughes owed, but said its rival Halliburton had “complied with its obligations.”
“Baker Hughes is pleased to see that the matter has been moved to the normal judicial process and its facility has returned to regular operations,” the company said. Halliburton did not respond to requests for comment. Baker Hughes’ La Canada de Urdaneta operations serve the oilfields surrounding nearby Lake Maracaibo, where output has collapsed due to underinvestment by state oil company PDVSA and, more recently, U.S. sanctions meant to force out socialist President Nicolas Maduro. Urdaneta is an ally of Maduro.
OPEC-member Venezuela produced 846,800 barrels-per-day (bpd) of crude in September, including 210,000 bpd from the western region, according to internal PDVSA data seen by Reuters. The country produced nearly 2 million bpd as recently as 2017, when around 40% of output came from the west.
La Canada de Urdaneta is home to the Petroboscan joint venture between PDVSA and Chevron Corp, one of the most prolific oil fields in the region.
Baker Hughes, Halliburton and Chevron all maintain operations in Venezuela thanks to an exemption to U.S. sanctions on PDVSA allowing them to continue doing business with the firm through January. (Reporting by Mariela Nava in Maracaibo, Luc Cohen and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas, and Liz Hampton in Denver Additional reporting by Marianna Parraga in Rio de Janeiro Editing by Marguerita Choy and Daniel Wallis)