September 27, 2012 / 3:26 PM / 7 years ago

UPDATE 2-Venezuela starts output at two Orinoco oil projects

(Adds details, background)
    By Marianna Parraga
    ZUATA, Venezuela, Sept 27 (Reuters) - Venezuela began early
production on Thursday at two joint ventures with Russian and
Vietnamese investors in the South American OPEC nation's huge
Orinoco heavy crude belt. 
    President Hugo Chavez's government wants to boost the
country's oil production, and is pinning its hopes on a string
of projects with foreign investors to develop the Orinoco
region, one of the world's biggest mostly-untapped oil reserves.
    The Petromiranda project, where state oil company PDVSA is
partnered with Russian companies including Rosneft and
LUKOIL, began producing 1,500 barrels per day, a PDVSA
source told Reuters. 
    "It is an extraordinary level of production and it shows
that this is one of the most prolific areas," Oil Minister
Rafael Ramirez said after decanting the first of the thick,
black crude into a container. 
    "These are literally the first barrels that are being
produced here ... We will also have early production today at
our joint venture with Vietnam, Petromacareo." 
    PDVSA's Russian partners have invested some $800 million in
Petromiranda, Ramirez added, and the project was expected to be
producing 6,000 bpd soon, eventually rising to 45,000 bpd. 
    Petromacareo, where PDVSA is working with state-run
Petrovietnam, began producing 800 bpd on Thursday, he said, and
is forecast to be pumping some 4,000 bpd in the short term. 
    Venezuela's current oil production of about 3.13 million bpd
lags the 3.50 million bpd that Chavez has projected for the end
of this year. Projects to develop the Orinoco belt have been
delayed by financial, logistical and technical issues. 
    Ramirez also told reporters Venezuela planned to more than
double the capacity of its Petromonagas heavy oil upgrader to
250,000 bpd, from 120,000 bpd. Russia's third largest crude
producer TNK-BP is a partner in that project. 

 (Additional reporting Eyanir Chinea in Caracas; Writing by
Daniel Wallis and Sofina Mirza-Reid)
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