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Russia may become Venezuela's No.1 oil partner

Russia may become Venezuela's No.1 oil partnerCaracas, Jan 31 - Venezuelan state-owned oil company PDVSA has signed a series of offshore gas development and drill-rig import agreements here with Russian state-controlled Rosneft, bolstering an alliance with a country that Caracas expects will be its top oil partner by 2021.

The CEOs of PDVSA, Rafael Ramirez, and Rosneft, Igor Sechin, signed the accords, including a memorandum of understanding for the joint development of the Rio Caribe and Mejillones offshore gas fields, part of the Mariscal Sucre liquefied natural gas project off Venezuela's northeast coast.

Ramirez, who is also Venezuela's energy minister, said joint ventures between PDVSA and Russian oil and gas companies Rosneft, Gazprom, Surgutneftegaz and Lukoil currently account for total output of 230,000 barrels of crude per day.

He said the goal is to boost that production to 913,000 bpd by 2019 through a $46.9 billion joint investment program in which the Russian firms will contribute $17.6 billion, more than half of which is to come from Rosneft.

"We'll have joint production of 1,123,000 barrels per day by 2021, which would make the (group of) Russian companies our country's largest oil partner," Ramirez said.

Sechin, meanwhile, announced that Rosneft has become operator of the vast Orinoco oil belt's Junin-6 block, which it and the other Russian firms that make up the Russian Oil Consortium are developing in a joint venture with PDVSA.

Rosneft took the lead role after buying out Russian oil company TNK-BP's stake in the consortium from Britain's BP. (IANS)