CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuela will partner with Reliance Industries to develop a block in the South American country’s Orinoco extra heavy crude belt, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Tuesday.
Ramirez also said that Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA had agreed to increase the amount of oil it sends to Reliance to 300,000 barrel-per-day (bpd), rising to 400,000 bpd, under a new 15-year contract.
PDVSA had agreed in 2008 to ship some 150,000 bpd to the Indian company, and Ramirez told reporters on Tuesday that Venezuela was currently sending 270,000 bpd to Reliance.
Under President Hugo Chavez, the OPEC nation has been seeking to diversify its oil sales – which make up about 96 percent of its total export earnings – away from its biggest traditional customer, the United States.
The Venezuelan government is pinning its hopes for its oil industry on a string of ambitious projects to develop the Orinoco belt, which is one of the biggest mostly-untapped reserves of hydrocarbons left in the world.
(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Alden Bentley)