Venezuela has signed deals to supply oil to China as part of a drive by Hugo Chavez, the south American nation’s president, to break his dependence on energy exports to the United States.

Venezuela will double its exports to China by sending 300,000 barrels per day of crude in 2007, officials said at a signing ceremony in Caracas on Monday.

“Venezuela has always said it wants to turn itself into a secure and increasing source of oil supply to China,” Chavez said at a gathering marking the visit of Li Changchun, a member of China’s Politburo Standing Committee.

China is the world’s second biggest oil consumer.

Venezuela says it pumps about 3.3 million barrels of oil per day (bpd) although analysts say the figure is about 2.7 million.

It is the fifth-largest oil exporter to the United States.

Big business

Last year, the Opec nation sold only 150,000 bpd of crude to China.

Chavez has said Venezuela is looking to ship one million bpd there by 2012.

China is also planning to develop the heavy crude of Venezuela’s Orinoco Belt and work jointly with Venezuela on building refineries and tankers.

Venezuela is forging oil co-operation with countries such as Iran, China and Russia while stripping US corporations such as Conoco Phillips, Chevron and Exxon Mobil of their majority stakes in Venezuelan projects.

Chavez said China had given its approval to a $6bn fund for development work in Venezuela.

China will supply $4bn with Venezuela contributing the remaining $2bn.