Several strategic associations among PDVSA and major oil companies are currently undenvay to start massive heavy oil production and upgrading at the Orinoco Belt in Venezuela.

The preferred process scheme in these associations is based on delayed coking. This paper discusses the advantages and disadvantages both from the technical and economic point of view, using delayed coking, as compared to hydroprocessing, in an integrated complex that includes production and upgrading. Hydroconversion processes have the advantages of larger synthetic crude oil production at the same upgrader capacity, but require higher investment. However, this investment would be fully rewarded in a market situation with high price differentials and cost of the raw material.


Four integrated production-upgrading projects that require large investments have been defined to be executed as Joint Ventures in the Orinoco Belt.' The projects will produce upgraded synthetic crude oil of different quality directed to fulfil1 specific markets. All these projects have selected delay coking as the upgrading technology and are economically viable at current oil prices. They are characterized by low production cost and in same cases by the leverage of deep conversion that allows to increase production of a larger amount of heavy crude oil by dilution with the upgraded product.

A process scheme including deep hydroconversion is compared to a delay coker scheme showing a 20% increase in commercial crude oil production for the same capacity of the conversion unit, due to the most pronounced leverage effect derived from the higher liquid yield in the hydroconversion case. This compensate the larger investment required, making the two process schemes to yield similar return of investment.

The Orinoco Belt has 1187 MMMBLS of oil in place. The estimated reserves based on a recovery factor between 10 to 23% amounts 120 to 270 MMMBLS. These reserves are of the same order of magnitude than Saudi Arabia reserves and with a minimum recovery factor they reduce only to a half.

As compared to the Canadian reserves, these bitumens flow at well conditions and no mining is required to produce them.

Four Joint Venture projects are under way to produce close to 500 TBPD (3315 m3/h) in the Orinoco Belt. The Maraven-Conoco project aimed to produce 100 TBPD (663 m3/h) of a commercial crude oil of 20"API has completed basic engineering.

The Maraven-Total-Statoil-Nork Hydro project will produce 143 TBPD (947 m3/h) of a 32"API commercial oil and it has also been approved by the Venezuelan Congress, to commercialize the Zuata area. The Corpoven-Arco Association has also the participation of Phillips Petroleum and Texaco, to produce 236 TBPD (1564m3/h) of a 25"API commercial crude oil based on the Ham

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