"With the possibility of a joint project between PDVSA and Petropars, we can upgrade that crude from 8 API to 16, 19 or even 31 API," Del Pino said.
Both companies are already measuring and certifying reserves at the Ayacucho 7 block of the Orinoco oil belt "and we're very happy with the results. Acquisition of new information, that's the phase we are going into now. We'll dig exploratory wells and gather 3-D seismic data," he said.
The PDVSA official said that the project will most likely use new technology from Anglo-Dutch oil firm Shell (NYSE: RDS-B) or another high-profile purveyor to produce liquid fuels on site.
The "new generation" of Orinoco upgrading units will produce not just synthetic crude but "finished, products, such as gasoline" using technologies such as in situ cracking, he said.
The only downside of the new technologies is that a percentage of the extra-heavy crude used to manufacture liquid fuels onsite is turned into coke, a material of lesser value.
The Iranian side is very keen to be able to produce liquid fuels onsite. "Iran, in spite of being an exporter of crude, is an importer of refinery products due to the particularities under which its oil industry developed," Del Pino added.
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