Venezuela has announced the discovery of the country's largest natural gas deposit at an offshore well with an estimated 15 trillion cubic feet of gas.
Venezuela's Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Monday the results of the latest exploratory drilling from the well named Pearl 3 off the coast of western Venezuela were "extraordinary."
State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA) and Italy's Eni SpA signed a separate oil project agreement worth USD 17 billion on Monday to extract and refine crude oil in the nation's Orinoco Belt.
The joint venture will extract up to 240,000 barrels of heavy crude oil per day in the Junin area of the Orinoco.
The project also includes the building and operation of an oil refinery to produce diesel fuel to be exported to Europe, The Latin American Herald Tribune said.
The Italian energy company Eni SpA, which is a partner in the project along with Spain's Repsol-YPF, said the newly found natural gas well is one of the most significant findings in recent years, the Associated Press reported.
"We're turning into a world gas power," Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said after the discovery of the well.
Apart from the Athabasca Tar Sands in Alberta, Canada, the Orinoco Belt, located in the southern strip along the eastern Orinoco River Basin, comprises one of the largest extra heavy crude oil deposits in the world.
Venezuela and Ecuador are the only Latin American members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC), which is scheduled to meet in Quito in December.
Ramirez said that the upcoming talks "will let us evaluate what the prospects are for 2011."
But he said OPEC would not discuss any issues of market quotas, AFP reported.