PDVSA says six Orinoco projects to begin pumping this year
* Exec says Petromacareo venture, five others to start soon
* Orinoco belt projects have faced repeated delays
* Venezuela to challenge any losses in arbitration cases
By Marianna Parraga and Enrique Andres Pretel
PUERTO LA CRUZ, Venezuela, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA said Wednesday that six new projects in the Orinoco heavy oil belt are expected to start production by the end of the year, setting yet another target for development of a delay-plagued region vital to increased production in the country.
The first project to begin producing, said Rubén Figuera, the PDVSA executive in charge of the Orinoco belt, will be Petromacareo, its joint venture with Vietnamese oil company Petrovietnam. After that there will be projects with Italian, Russian, Spanish, and American oil companies.
"This year we'll begin early production at all of the new developments in the belt," said Figuera, at an oil industry conference in the coastal city of Puerto la Cruz. "The expectation for the wells is extraordinary."
Separately, a senior legal advisor to Venezuela's government on Wednesday said the country would challenge any defeat stemming from its ongoing arbitration cases with foreign companies.
The Orinoco heavy belt, stretching across eastern Venezuela, is vital to President Hugo Chavez's goal of lifting current production in the OPEC member to as much 4 million barrels per day (bpd). But projects to develop the belt, considered the world's single biggest source of oil reserves, have been delayed a number of times by financial, logistical and technical issues.
As a result, Venezuela's current production, about 3.13 million bpd, lags the 3.50 million bpd Chavez has projected for the end of this year.
Figuera said the six new projects together will pump as much as 400,000 bpd next year.
Petromacareo, which was supposed to have begun producing in early 2012, is expected to pump as much as 200,000 bpd.
Petrojunin, a joint venture with Italy's Eni, will launch after Petromacareo, Figuera said, followed by Petromiranda, a project with a consortium of Russian investors, including Rosneft and LUKOIL.
The other ventures to follow, he said, will be Petrourica, with China National Petroleum Corporation, or CNPC; Petrocarabobo, with Spain's Repsol ; and Petroindependencia, with U.S. oil company Chevron.
As it moves ahead with current ventures, Venezuela on Wednesday said it would challenge any defeats related to a slew of ongoing arbitration cases with foreign investors, citing violations of legal proceedings. More than 20 such cases have been filed by foreign companies because of expropriations by Chavez in recent years.
"If we have any adverse ruling, naturally we will argue that there have been violations of process," said Hildegard Rondon de Sanso, one of the attorneys defending Venezuela in the cases.
"Our rights have been violated thousands of times," she added, speaking at the oil conference.
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