CARACAS, Mar 31 (Reuters) – State oil company PDVSA increased production of light crude after repairing a gas pipeline that burst earlier this month, according to four people familiar with the matter and a document seen by Reuters.

PDVSA placed several bypasses around damaged sections of the 36-inch pipeline, which exploded in an oil zone in eastern Venezuela.

Since much of that gas is produced in conjunction with light oil, the pipeline disruption led PDVSA to temporarily shut down dozens of wells, reducing production by some 30,000 barrels per day (bpd).

Production has been almost completely restored, according to one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity. A document seen by Reuters showed that PDVSA’s eastern division’s output returned to around 165,000 bpd over the weekend, consistent with average levels in recent months.

Neither PDVSA nor the Venezuelan Petroleum Ministry immediately responded to requests for comment.

Venezuela produced 521,000 bpd in February, according to data the country provided to OPEC, a slight increase over recent months but close to its lowest level in decades, after years of divestment and mismanagement at PDVSA, and more recently by US sanctions against the company.

The government attributed the pipeline explosion to an attack to sabotage the country’s economy, but critics said it happened due to the lack of maintenance of the Venezuelan oil company, which faces liquidity problems.

(Report by Luc Cohen in New York and Deisy Buitrago in Caracas. Edited by Javier Leira)

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