The Maracaibo Basin is a prolific, hydrocarbon-producing sedimentary basin in northwestern Venezuela with estimated oil reserves of approximately 44 billion barrels (1,722,285,000 m³). The basin is bounded on the north by the Oca Fault which separates it from the Caribbean. The remaining sides of the basin are bounded by a branching in the northern Andes Mountains termed the Sierra de Perijá (to the west) and the Mérida Andes (to the south and east). The city of Maracaibo, Venezuela is located in the northern central part of the basin on the shore of Lake Maracaibo, which occupies the central part of basin.
Oil was discovered in producible quantities in Venezuela in 1914 at the town of Mene Grande in the east central part of the basin. The site of the first well was near a surface oil seep.
Venezuela produces a mix of conventional heavy crude and nonconventional crude derrived from bitumen. This latter source, previously too expensive to produce in quantity, now makes up an increasing large percent of Venezuela's oil exports—600,000 of Venezuelas's three million barrels per day in 2006. In the Maracaibo Basin, the balance of reserves is toward its conventional deposits, which make up half of the country's exports. As the country continues shifting toward bitumen production due to its increasing profitability and decreases in conventional reserves, the level of Maracaibo Basin oil production will decrease, while that of the Orinoco Belt and its massive bitumen deposits will increase.
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