"Those US$3.5bn will cover the exploratory phase and beyond, right up to the construction of the upgrading unit," Pedro Leon, general manager of the process to certify the Orinoco extra-heavy crude reserves told BNamericas.
"We see early production in 2009 and full commercial production by 2011," he added.
The unit will most likely incorporate HDH Plus, a technology for extra-heavy crude oils that will take the feedstock from some 7.5 degrees API crude to the desired 16 degrees. HDH Plus is being fine-tuned by PDVSA and French company Axens.
Newer technologies such as "in situ cracking" - which allow for refining upon extraction - could also influence the project, Leon said. "There is not one technology that is absolutely correct for one project," he added.
Current specifications have all of the synthetic crude travelling to Brazil, with some 100,000b/d either shipped or pipelined to the Abreu De Lima greenfield refinery project in Brazil's Pernambuco state for final processing. The cost of Abreu De Lima is not included in the US$3.5bn investment figure, Leon said.
There are some 400 billion barrels of oil recoverable with existing technology in the Orinoco, he added.
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