* Ramirez says Venezuela stills wants $100 per barrel
* Says PDVSA aims for 500,000-bpd output hike in 2013
* Says company plans to invest $25 bln this year
(Adds more Ramirez quotes, background)
By Marianna Parraga
CARACAS, March 8 - Venezuela will maintain its oil industry
tax and legal framework under the leadership of acting President
Nicolas Maduro, the OPEC nation's oil minister said on Friday to
reassure foreign investors after the death of President Hugo
Rafael Ramirez told Reuters that Venezuela would continue to
push for a minimum price of $100 per barrel at the next OPEC
meeting, and that he did not expect Chavez's death to push up
"The tax and legal framework were set out clearly by
President Chavez," the oil minister said outside the National
Assembly, where Maduro was being inaugurated as acting leader on
Friday ahead of a new presidential election due in weeks.
"While our government is here and the people remain in
charge, our oil policy will remain unchanged."
Ramirez said he expected the South American country to
increase its oil output by 500,000 barrels per day (bpd) this
year, bringing its total production to 3.5 million bpd.
The government says it is pumping 3.0 million bpd, but many
industry experts question those figures. Analysts say Venezuela
produced just 2.34 million bpd last month.
Ramirez said state oil company PDVSA invested $22 billion in
2012, and expected to invest $25 billion this year.
He said foreign energy companies working with PDVSA in
Venezuela sent condolences following Chavez's death after a
two-year battle with cancer, but had expressed no concerns about
the political situation in the country with the world's biggest
"Everything is normal in the oil industry. We're
guaranteeing fuel supplies," Ramirez said. "We will keep our oil
policy the same, internally and in OPEC ... we will defend a
minimum price of $100 per barrel (at the next meeting)."
The next gathering of the oil producers' cartel is scheduled
to take place in Vienna on May 31.
FOCUS ON ORINOCO
Ramirez said PDVSA was focusing all its efforts on the
Orinoco extra heavy crude belt, where it has a string of
projects with foreign companies including U.S. major Chevron
, Spain's Repsol and Russia's Rosneft.
Those projects are expected eventually to add 2 million bpd
of new output via investments of more than $80 billion.
But that will take years, with executives at some of the
joint ventures saying work there has often been delayed by lack
of infrastructure and delays in payments from PDVSA.
Ramirez said PDVSA had sharply increased its investment in
operations in recent years, from just $3 billion in 2005.
"Production doesn't react immediately," Ramirez said, adding
that nonetheless he expected to see a rapid rise in output from
the Orinoco region.
"It's an extraordinary plan for any oil-producing nation."
(Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Gary Hill and Lisa