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According to a company executive, U.S. energy behemoth Chevron Corp. (CVX - Analyst Report) expects the start-up of an oil field in Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt next year. The super major is confident that it can commence production from Orinoco’s Carabobo Project 3 – which has estimated reserves of 66 billion barrels – in September 2012.

The Orinoco Belt, estimated to hold more than 500 billion barrels of recoverable extra-heavy crude, is widely thought to be the world’s largest liquid hydrocarbon reserve.

Chevron holds a 34% interest in Carabobo Project 3, while Venezuelan national oil company Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. (or PDVSA) controls 60%. The remaining stake is owned by Venezuelan and Japanese firms.

Following the first production of 50,000 barrels per day – Chevron is looking to boost volumes by an additional 50,000-100,000 barrels per day every two years. Carabobo 3, one of several Orinoco projects, is estimated to reach a maximum output of approximately 400,000-480,000 barrels of crude oil per day by 2016.

However, Chevron pointed out that it is waiting for a commitment from the state-owned PDVSA regarding further investment in the project considering that the heavy crude, like the one found in Venezuela, though cheaper to extract, is more expensive to refine and transport than lighter varieties of oil owing to its high density.

San Ramon, California-based Chevron is the second-largest U.S. oil company by market value after ExxonMobil Corp. (XOM - Analyst Report). It is engaged in oil and gas exploration and production, refining and marketing of petroleum products, manufacturing of chemicals and other energy-related businesses. The company divides its operations into three main segments: Exploration and Production; Manufacturing, Products, and Transportation; and Other Businesses.

Chevron is currently rated as Zacks #3 Rank (Hold), implying that the stock is expected to perform in line with the broader U.S. equity market over the next one to three months.

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