Belarus: Venezuela pumping work in '07

MINSK, April 12 (UPI) -- Belarus plans to start pumping oil in Venezuela this year, a senior Belarusian energy official said.

"In 2007, we are planning to start extracting oil in Venezuela," said Mikhail Asipenka, deputy director of Belneftekhim, the state-run oil company.

The comments, reported Thursday by the Belarusian human-rights group Charter-97, were made at an international energy conference in Minsk Thursday.

Asipenka also said that during talks in late March, Venezuela would allocate additional oil blocks to Belarus.

Belarus plans to sell oil extracted in Venezuela and use the proceeds to buy oil from Russian suppliers.

In late March, state-run Belarusneft, the state-run production company, began oil-prospecting work in Venezuela's Junin-1 block in the basin of the Orinoco River.

Belarus plans to extract at least 2 million tons of oil annually in Venezuela, South America's No. 1 producer.

The Oil and Gas Journal estimates that Venezuela, the world's No. 8 net oil exporter, had 79.7 billion barrels of proven conventional oil reserves.