Iran has started a crude oil refining process at a rate of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) at the El Palito refinery in Venezuela, as reported by Xinhua citing the Shana news agency.

Iranian news agency Mehr quoted the Iranian Petroleum Minister Javad Owji as saying that the El Palito refinery was the first that Iran had built overseas.

The country is also understood to be considering pursuing other refinery projects overseas.

Owji said: “This was a long-standing and 43-year-old dream that was realised through the efforts of my colleagues at the National Iranian Oil Refining and Distribution Company (NIORDC).

“This effort saw its starting point in Venezuela and plans are in place to replicate the project in other regions.”

In May this year, Iran signed a $116m contract with Venezuelan state oil firm state-owned oil company Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) to repair and expand the El Palito refinery.

NIORDC head Jalil Salari was QUOTED by Press TV as saying that efforts were underway to expand Iran’s refinery operations in overseas projects.

In July, Reuters reported that Iran and Venezuela, both US-sanctioned countries, had reinforced their energy cooperation in recent years.

Venezuela has been trading several commodities such as heavy oil for Iranian condensate, gasoline, refinery parts and technical assistance.

The NIORDC has also been given a contract to start works at the Paraguana, Venezuela’s largest refinery.

In addition, it has been reported that the Iranian Oil Ministry is considering similar projects in other Latin American countries, including Nicaragua.

Earlier this year, Bloomberg News reported that US-based oil major Chevron was in preliminary talks with the Venezuelan Government as it looked to gain more control over the country’s oil and gas assets.

Sources said the company aimed to take charge of the production, shipment and sale of its Venezuelan crude oil.