CARACAS - State energy monopoly, Petroleos de Venezuela, proposed Thursday that national oil companies within the Union of South American Nations, or Unasur, bloc, jointly invest in developing Venezuela's massive Orinoco heavy belt.
Venezuela is looking for allies in the region to help fund the development of 11 production blocks in the Orinoco region, as well as invest in offshore gas projects, refineries and the upgrader facilities needed to process the country's tar-like heavy oil, PdVSA, as the state company is known, said in a statement.
Development of the Orinoco belt is central to President Hugo Chavez's plans to boost Venezuela's crude production in coming years. PdVSA says it will need a total of $251 billion between 2013 and 2019 to finance oil projects and build infrastructure in the mostly barren Orinoco region, but analysts question how the company will be able to attract the investment.
Under Mr. Chavez's leadership, the Venezuelan government has expropriated a number of oil projects run by foreign private companies in recent years--moves that critics say make investors reluctant to put money into Venezuela's energy industry.
The government says it aims to boost crude output to 3.5 million barrels a day by the end of the year and 4 million barrels a day by 2014, from just over 3 million barrels currently.
PdVSA has invested an average of $15 billion in each of the last five years toward advancing is production plans.
Venezuela currently exports 133,000 barrels a day of oil and derivatives to members of Unasur and hopes to more than double that to 300,000 barrels a day by 2019, PdVSA said in its statement.
Unasur's members include Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela. The countries are home to about 400 million people.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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