Three Offshore Licenses to be Handed Over in January

Venezuela's energy and oil ministry will formally hand over three offshore exploration and production licenses in January, an official from one of the companies that won a license told BNamericas.

"What we have heard from the government is they will make the formal handover in January," said a company representative, who declined to be identified. The statement essentially confirms a report that appeared in Friday's edition of El Universal.

However, the company official declined to discuss another claim in the article, that the delay in handing over the licenses - originally planned for November 30 - was caused by a diplomatic ruckus between Venezuela and Colombia triggered by one of the blocks being to close to an area disputed by the two countries. The article goes on to say that the boundaries of the block in question (Castillete Noreste 2) could have been redrawn to avoid conflict.

An official said that a new date for the signing has not been fixed.

On November 15 the ministry announced that the Castillete Noreste 2 block went to Vinccler Oil & Gas, the Venezuelan unit of Canadian oil company PetroFalcon (TSX: PFC) for US$7.38mn. The Moruy 2 block went to a consortium made up of Brazilian federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) and Japanese energy firm Teikoku for US$19.5mn. Italy's Eni and Spain's Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP) paid US$34.4mn for Cardón 4 block.

Vinccler Oil & Gas put out a press release on December 2 informing investors about the delay. A PetroFalcon official, who asked not to be identified, said the company has not been given a new date for the actual handing over of the license.

Although the three blocks awarded are said to be rich in natural gas, crude is also thought to be present in significant amounts, representatives from companies involved and Venezuelan government officials have told BNamericas.

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