Venezuela, Italy's Eni to explore heavy oil block
( Reuters ) - Venezuela and Italian oil company Eni signed an accord on Friday to certify reserves in a block in the vast Orinoco heavy oil belt.
State oil company PDVSA and Eni said the "Junin 5" block, which has potential reserves of more than 2.5 billion barrels, could turn into a project with output of 300,000 barrels per day in 2014.
"It's a very important operation. Something of this kind changes Eni's profile both in terms of production and reserves," Eni Chief Executive Paolo Scaroni said, adding investment in the project could be more than $10 billion.
Eni currently has 7 billion barrels of proven reserves, he added.
The cooperation accord, televised live on state TV, came on the same day as Venezuela fought a legal battle in London with Exxon Mobil which won a $12 billion assets freeze after Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez drove the U.S. company from the Orinoco.
Venezuela has pointed to deals like the Eni accord as evidence it can work with foreign partners despite its Exxon dispute.
The signing ceremony in Caracas included the companies' top officials and the foreign ministers from the two countries. Both parties said the deal was sign of cooperation between the companies and countries.
"For many years, Venezuela has represented for us Italians a land full of opportunity,".
The leftist government of Chavez has signed similar preliminary accords with companies from Belarus to Brazil, which have yet to lead to production operations.
PDVSA and Eni last week also signed a $700 million compensation agreement, putting an end to a dispute over an oil field run by Eni that Venezuela nationalized in 2006.