State-owned oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, expects to begin gas production from a platform in the Urdaneta Project, which it is developing with Italy's ENI and Spain's Repsol YPF, in 2012, the company's chief, Rafael Ramirez, said.

"We are working in an accelerated manner to hire an offshore platform and start gas production early on the Rafael Urdaneta Project," Ramirez, who also serves as energy and oil minister, said.

"We have spoken about this with our partners, basically with ENI, but Repsol has also been in on the talks, and we are going to firm up the goal in July of bringing the gas ashore in the year 2012," Ramirez told reporters.

Repsol has operations in a joint venture with ENI and PDVSA in the Perla field, located in the northeastern section of the Gulf of Venezuela and considered one of the world's largest gas fields with 15 trillion cubic feet of reserves.

The discovery of the Perla 1 well was announced in September 2009 in Madrid by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Repsol and ENI representatives.

Perla 1's discovery was a major achievement for Venezuela, Chavez said.

The well is part of the largest gas field found in Venezuela, which is the world's No. 5 exporter of crude and ranks No. 8 in terms of gas reserves, with 176 trillion cubic feet.