CARACAS - Venezuelan state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela, or PdVSA, said Wednesday that it expects to reach its goal of producing 300 million cubic feet of natural gas a day at its large offshore Perla field by the fourth quarter of 2013.
PdVSA in June pushed back the estimated start of production at Perla to the first quarter of 2013 from its earlier estimate of the end of this year. It didn't cite a reason for the delay.
Located in Venezuela's Cardon IV bloc, Perla holds 16.3 trillion cubic feet of natural gas and is considered one of Latin America's largest fields.
PdVSA signed a contract in December with Italy's Eni Spa (E) and Spain's Repsol to develop the field.
The Perla project is expected to help Venezuela overcome power shortages that have plagued the country in recent years. It is slated to receive around $4.5 billion in investment.
Production is seen rising fourfold to 1.2 billion cubic feet a day by 2019, which will be maintained until the end of the contract in 2036.
Despite boasting one of the world's largest natural gas reserves at around 195 trillion cubic feet, insufficient domestic production has forced Venezuela to import more than 200 million cubic feet of natural gas daily from Colombia.
In May, Colombian Energy Minister Mauricio Cardenas said his country planned to increase its natural gas exports to Venezuela to 300 million cubic feet a day by September.
Project development has been slow in Venezuela. Some critics blame red tape and regulatory uncertainty under President Hugo Chavez's government.
PdVSA will take a 35% stake in the project during the development phase, reducing Eni's and Repsol's current split ownership of Perla. As part of the agreement, the European companies will each be left with a 32.5% stake.
Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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