Deltana project officials said Chevron paid a $5 million bonus for the Block 3 field after making a bid for the area in late November. Ramirez said the U.S. firm was already moving forward with plans to develop Deltana's Block 2, which it won last year.
ChevronTexaco in June will start drilling in Block 2, the minister said. The company planned to spend $170 million drilling on the concession.
Ramirez said Venezuela's Mariscal Sucre project, which includes a 4.7 million ton per year LNG plant that would liquefy and export the Deltana gas as well as gas from waters off the Paria peninsula, could begin production by 2007.
Private firms partnered with PDVSA say output is more likely to begin in 2008 or 2009. Venezuela in February 2003 awarded Blocks 2 and 4 to ChevronTexaco and Statoil.
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