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The proven oil reserves in Venezuela are claimed to be the largest in the world, according to an announcement in early 2011 by President Hugo Chavez and the Venezuelan government. The reported proven reserves reach 297 billion barrels (4.72×1010 m3), surpassing that of the previous long-term world leader, Saudi Arabia. OPEC said that Saudi Arabia's reserves stood at 265 billion barrels (4.21×1010 m3) in 2009.
Venezuela's development of its oil reserves has been affected by political unrest in recent years. In late 2002 nearly half of the workers at the state oil company PDVSA went on strike, after which the company fired 18,000 of them. The crude oil that Venezuela has is very heavy by international standards, and as a result much of it must be processed by specialized domestic and international refineries. Venezuela continues to be one of the largest suppliers of oil to the United States, sending about 1.4 million barrels per day (220×103 m3/d) to the U.S. Venezuela is also a major oil refiner and the owner of the Citgo gasoline chain.
In October 2007, the Venezuelan government said its proven oil reserves had risen to 100 billion barrels (16×109 m3). The energy and oil ministry said it had certified an additional 12.4 billion barrels (2.0×109 m3) of proven reserves in the country's Faja del Orinoco region. In February 2008, Venezuelan proven oil reserves were 172 billion barrels (27×109 m3).
By 2009, Venezuela reported 211.17 billion barrels (3.3573×1010 m3) of conventional oil reserves, the largest of any country in South America. In 2008, it had net oil exports of 1.189 Mbbl/d (189,000 m3/d) to the United States. As a result of the lack of transparency in the country's accounting, Venezuela's true level of oil production is difficult to determine, but OPEC analysts estimate that it produced around 2.47 Mbbl/d (393,000 m3/d) of oil in 2009. This would give it 234 years of remaining production at current rates.