Spain's Repsol said it expects production at the Perla gas field, located off Venezuela's northwestern coast and one of the world's largest, to begin in about 15 months.

"The gas sales contract establishes a period of between 23 and 27 months for the first gas, but with early accelerated production ... we can move (that timetable) up to 14-15 months," an executive with Repsol's Venezuelan unit, Ramiro Paez, told reporters.

He said Wednesday at the 2nd Integral Congress on Hydrocarbons in the eastern Venezuelan town of Lecheria that start-up of production at the super-giant field will be "impossible" in less than 15 months.

In his speech, Paez said the idea is to start with five wells that have already been drilled in that area - located 50 miles offshore in shallow Caribbean waters - and initially produce 300 million cubic feet per day.

The goal would then be to boost output capacity up to 1.2 billion cfd in nine years.

"We'd go from 300 million, later to 800 million and later to 1.2 billion cubic feet per day. All this with the goal of using that gas for domestic consumption," Paez said. He described Perla as a strategic project for Repsol and Italian partner ENI.

In December, state oil giant Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. - also a partner in the project - signed a contract with Repsol and Eni to supply the Venezuelan market with gas beginning in 2012.

At that time, Repsol CEO Antonio Brufau said Perla, whose reserves are estimated at nearly 17 trillion cubic feet, was Latin America's biggest-ever natural gas find.

The discovery of the Perla field, part of the Rafael Urdaneta gas project, was announced in September 2009 in Madrid by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Repsol and ENI. EFE