Ecuador oil output up 0.8 percent in 2012, under target

QUITO Fri Jan 11, 2013 9:47am EST

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QUITO Jan 11 (Reuters) - Ecuador's oil output increased 0.8 percent last year to an average of 504,000 barrels of crude per day (bpd), less than the 510,000-bpd target set by the government, the energy ministry said on Friday.

Ecuador is OPEC's smallest member, and in 2011 its average production reached 500,000 bpd, up from 486,000 bpd in 2010.

Ecuador's energy minister, Wilson Pastor, said in July the country aimed to increase average oil production to 530,000 bpd in 2013, up from a target of 510,000 bpd in 2012.

After taking office in 2007, Ecuador's leftist president, Rafael Correa, introduced reforms to increase state revenue from the oil industry, and since then foreign oil companies have not invested in new projects.

State-run energy companies Petroamazonas and Petroecuador invested $1.34 billion last year, while foreign oil companies invested $330 million, the ministry said in a statement.

Spain's Repsol SA and Chinese-owned Andes Petroleum both have operations in Ecuador, but the biggest producers are the country's state-run companies, whose output accounts for about 70 percent of total production.

Ecuador's economy is heavily dependent on oil exports. Higher crude prices have allowed Correa to hike social spending in recent years, which in turn has boosted his popularity among the country's poor majority ahead of a presidential election scheduled for February.

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