Venezuela to seek majority ownership of heavy oil projects

"We are preparing a petition to the Supreme Court so they repeal that (law), which says we can't have a majority stake," Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters Monday.

"Why can't we have a majority stake in the (Orinoco tar) belt? That ties the hands of our national company," he said.

In four oil upgrading plants located in the Orinoco region, state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, holds minority stakes ranging from 30 percent to 49 percent in partnerships with BP PLC, Exxon Mobil Corp., Chevron Corp., ConocoPhillips, France's Total SA and Norway's Statoil ASA, the AP reports.

The government has said it plans to eventually take a controlling stake in those operations as it has at other oil fields across the country that were previously run by private companies under contract.

President Hugo Chavez's administration has sought a larger share of profits from the industry amid surging oil prices. The average price of Venezuelan crude has more than doubled since 2003.