Venezuela's oil minister announced that state oil company PDVSA plans to invest $18 billion this year, primarily in exploration and production.

In a speech at the opening of the 2nd Integral Congress on Hydrocarbons in this northeastern town, Rafael Ramirez, who also heads PDVSA, said that in 2006 investment in the oil industry totaled $5.83 billion and then climbed to $11 billion in 2007 and $15.44 billion in 2008.

He said that $13.54 billion were invested in 2009 and $10.7 billion in 2010, a "bad year" due to the "impact of the entire drop in the price" in 2009, while investment rose to $17.53 billion last year.

He confirmed that in 2011 the Venezuelan oil company posted $124.75 billion in revenue.

"This (PDVSA) is a company that took in $124.75 billion" in revenue last year, Ramirez said, adding that net income totaled $35.23 billion.

He said that, as a result of the "recovery of the price of oil" and new tax policies, the government's total take from the oil industry amounts to $383.22 billion over the past 10 years.

In that regard, he defended the nationalization policy in place since 2006 and the re-establishment of royalties and taxes that prevented "multinational firms from carrying away $251.69 billion."

"They would've enormously enjoyed the recovery in the price of oil," Ramirez said in defending a tax system designed to capitalize "to the maximum on this natural resource."

Venezuela's certified oil reserves amount to some 300 billion barrels, equivalent to 25 percent of the world's total.

That volume of recoverable crude is mostly located in the Orinoco Belt of northeastern Venezuela and exceeds the 265 billion barrels of proven reserves in Saudi Arabia, previously considered the world's largest oil nation. EFE