CARACAS – Venezuelan Energy and Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said some $120 billion will be invested over the next seven years in the Orinoco Belt, which the U.S. Geological Survey says is the largest petroleum accumulation it has ever evaluated.
“This will enable production of close to 3 million barrels per day,” roughly doubling the current output at fields in other parts of the country, Ramirez told state television.
A total of $80 billion in investment has already been pledged for the Orinoco Belt in northeastern Venezuela – the result of agreements between the OPEC member and foreign governments and deals signed with multinational oil firms.
PDVSA, whose president is Ramirez, says that the Orinoco Belt contains 280 billion barrels of recoverable oil, or roughly half the the amount the U.S. Geological Survey said in January was “technically recoverable.”
Extracting and refining the Orinoco’s tar-like, extra-heavy crude – to be carried out by joint ventures in which state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. will be the majority partner – will require large amounts of investment.
Ahead of completion of an international process of quantifying and certifying the Orinoco reserves, which began in 2006 is to be concluded in the coming months, PDVSA announced that its nationwide proven crude reserves totaled 211.17 billion barrels last month, compared with 172.32 billion in March 2009.
In terms of proven reserves, Venezuela trails only Saudi Arabia, with 266 billion barrels, and is well ahead of Iraq, with 113 billion barrels.
PDVSA and the Venezuelan military announced last month that they will design a military defense plan for the Orinoco Belt, citing the “geostrategic interest it represents for the big world powers.”
The goal of the planned Integral Defense System will be to “protest the security and sovereignty of the world’s largest source of liquid hydrocarbon reserves,” state news agency ABN said on March 25.
ABN said that energy and military specialists agree that the Orinoco Belt “requires a comprehensive short- and long-term defense plan.”
Leftist President Hugo Chávez has said on different occasions that the United States has used up almost all of its own petroleum reserves and now is looking to take control of other crude-rich areas like Orinoco, comparing Washington’s quest for oil to Dracula’s thirst for blood. EFE