Venezuela's PDVSA and Italy's Eni start production early at Orinoco field

Caracas, Mar 14 (EFE).- State-owned oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, and Italy's Eni have commenced production ahead of schedule at their joint venture in the Orinoco Belt, while other projects with China's CNPC and U.S. supermajor Chevron Corp. should start producing crude soon, Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said.

"Our Petrojunin joint venture, as we announced in December, with the Eni corporation" started production on Wednesday, Ramirez, who also serves as PDVSA's CEO, said.

A "symbolic" 700 barrels of petroleum were produced, but production is expected to hit 15,000 barrels per day (bpd) by the end of this year and 75,000 bpd in 2015, the oil minister said.

The Orinoco Belt, located in southeastern Venezuela, holds some of the largest proven petroleum reserves in the world.

PDVSA has made higher production in the Orinoco Belt a goal.

The state-owned oil giant is counting on the joint ventures with foreign energy companies to achieve its production targets.

PDVSA holds 60 percent stakes in the joint ventures with foreign oil companies.

Venezuela produces about 3 million bpd, exporting about 1.5 million bpd to the United States and 640,000 bpd to China.