Ministry Okays Total, Statoil Venture for Deltana Natgas E&P

Venezuela's energy and oil ministry has approved a request from French energy major Total (NYSE: TOT) to partner with Norway's state oil firm Statoil (NYSE: STO) in natural gas E&P in block 4 of the Plataforma Deltana, a Statoil official told BNamericas.

"It was approved, as expected," said the official, who declined to be identified. The companies had first requested their partnership be approved in 2004. Statoil will have 51% in the venture and Total the remaining 49%, the official said.

Statoil said in 2005 that it was interrupting its drilling program in block 4. The decision was due to "health, safety and environmental concerns deriving from a drill malfunction," the source said. The program has not resumed but will be back on track at some point "during the second or third quarter of this year."

The two European firms are already partners in Sincor, the largest producer of synthetic crude from extra-heavy crude in Venezuela's Orinoco belt with output of 190,000 barrels a day (b/d). State oil firm PDVSA has a 38% interest in Sincor, Total 47% and Statoil the remaining 15%.

Deltana blocks 2 and 3 are being explored by US oil major Chevron (NYSE: CVX). Company LatAm upstream head Ali Moshiri told BNamericas earlier this year Chevron had found some 7 trillion cubic feet (Tf3) in the two blocks.

Venezuela is keen to develop natural gas reserves estimated at least 150Tf3, which the government says are the largest in the western hemisphere.

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