By Alexandra Ulmer
CARACAS (Reuters) - Venezuela's state oil company, PDVSA, is close to reaching deals to boost Schlumberger's presence after the oilfield services provider said in April it would reduce operations because of payment problems, PDVSA's president told Reuters.
PDVSA, the exclusive operator of the OPEC country's vast oilfields, has run up billions of dollars in unpaid bills to service providers as a result of cash-flow problems. U.S. oil services company Halliburton Co in April also said it would begin curtailing activity in Venezuela.
Eulogio Del Pino, president of PDVSA, on Friday night said some of Schlumberger's operations had been reduced but added others were being reinforced. "There are 14 Schlumberger drills that will start operations soon under a different financing scheme," said Del Pino, without elaborating.
"And in the case of the (Maracaibo) lake rigs, we'll also reach a deal for a different kind of operation," he added, in reference to Schlumberger's very specific jack-up rigs that are crucial for production in the western Maracaibo area.
Schlumberger did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The company in 2013 gave PDVSA a $1 billion credit line to allow it to continue delivering services despite the accumulating debts. It took a $49 million loss last year when Venezuela devalued its currency and a $472 million loss in 2014 for the same reason.
Schlumberger's decision to wind down operations heightened fears over Venezuela's oil operations, which are already suffering from lack of spare parts, a brain drain, crime and maintenance issues.
Venezuela's crude output fell to some 2.53 million barrels per day in the first quarter of 2016, from 2.72 million in the same quarter of last year, OPEC data provided through "direct communication" shows.
(Reporting by Alexandra Ulmer; Editing by Steve Orlofsky)