Venezuela claims 23% increase in oil reserves

Venezuela said its proved oil reserves rose by 23% to 211.17 billion bbl, due to the addition of 39.24 billion bbl mainly from the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt.

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Mar. 19 -- Venezuela said its proved oil reserves rose by 23% to 211.17 billion bbl, due to the addition of 39.24 billion bbl mainly from the Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt.

The new reserves were certified in the Barcelona, Maracaibo, Maturin, and Cumana areas and in the Orinoco Oil Belt's blocks Junin 10, Junin 7, Ayacucho 3, Ayacucho 5, Boyaca 2, Boyaca 5, and Ayacucho 8.

The new figures put Venezuela behind Saudi Arabia’s 266 billion bbl, but ahead of Iraq’s 113 billion bbl and Kuwait’s 94 billion bbl in terms of proven reserves at the end of 2009.

Analyst IHS Global Insight said the increased figure reflects the incorporation of reserves in the Orinoco belt under Venezuela’s Magna Reserva project.

It said the project has led to the incorporation of 133.404 billion bbl of proven reserves, or 57% of the target of 235.6 billion bbl, since the project was launched in 2006.

“The 2009 reserve figure compares with 76 billion bbl of reserves in 1998 and 80 billion bbl in 2005, when just conventional reserves were counted,” IHS Global Insight said.

"This project would confirm that the country has the world's biggest crude reserves, and it would put them to work for humanity," state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela SA said.

Despite the 23% increase due to the Orinoco figures, Venezuela’s total proven reserves actually amount to less than half of the more than 500 billion bbl that are believed by US official sources to lie within the country.

The US Geological Survey released a study in January which indicated that Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt holds 513 billion bbl of technically recoverable crude.

The USGS study, which said the Orinoco Belt was the largest oil accumulation it had ever evaluated, is the first to precisely evaluate how much oil can be extracted from the subsoil using current technology.

In addition to the 39.24 billion bbl of oil reserves, Venezuela added 3.7 tcf of natural gas to its reserves—a figure considerably lower than earlier estimates.

In January, Venezuela’s President Hugo Chavez noted the USGS also “is recognizing for the first time the large quantity of gas associated with that petroleum ... and are estimating it at 130 tcf.”

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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