Chavez sees 1 million-barrel oil exports to China

BEIJING – Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says his country’s oil exports to China could soar to 1 million barrels a day by 2012.

Chavez’s visit this week to Beijing has focused on trade and business ties, including refinery construction deals and China’s launch of a Venezuelan communications satellite.

Chavez was due to meet with top Chinese officials Wednesday, including President Hu Jintao and Communist Party No. 2 Wu Bangguo, speaker of the rubber stamp parliament.

In comments broadcast Tuesday on state television in Venezuela, Chavez said Venezuela’s oil exports to China would increase to almost 500,000 barrels a day next year. That figure could reach 1 million barrels a day within four years, he said.

The sides also plan to construct three oil refineries in China capable of processing Venezuela’s heavy sulfer-laden crude and build four oil tankers.

“While the world enters an energy crisis, we are investing,” Chavez said.

The outspoken U.S. critic regards China as a key link in his strategy of diversifying Venezuela’s oil sales away from the U.S., which still buys about half of Venezuela’s oil despite years of political tensions.

Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, has ramped up shipments to China to 250,000 barrels a day as of April.

Other plans call for building a refinery in Venezuela and launching a joint oil development project in the crude-rich Orinoco River belt and for China to build oil tankers for Venezuela.

Venezuela’s Presidential Office also issued a statement in praise of the upcoming launch of the VENESAT-1 satellite, that will transmit telephone, Internet, video conferencing and other signals throughout the region from the Caribbean to Paraguay on South America’s southern tip.

More than 100 Venezuelans have been trained in China to operate the satellite, the office said.