The ministry had planned to start awarding offshore gas blocks in March this year, according to a previous BNamericas report, but the tenders have been delayed.
"Right now we will go with just two big areas, block 1 in Plataforma Deltana and Guarapiche. We will not go into the Orinoco river Delta [offshore eastern Venezuela near Trinidad] that much because of environmental questions," he said.
The Orinoco river Delta is an ecologically fragile region where the sea and the river meet and is also home to several thousand indigenous people.
The schedule for the Guarapiche tender will be announced "soon," he added.
As to where the gas will go, Ramirez said "the first option is the domestic market, then exporting to the Caribbean islands and then industrialization" at the Cigma petrochemicals complex, which will be built on the coast near the E&P areas of eastern Venezuela.
Even with current gas production of 7 billion cubic feet a day (Bf3/d), Venezuela needs some 1.5Bf3/d more for refining, manufacturing of petrochemicals and expansion of crude production. Licenses for offshore natural gas E&P in five new blocks were granted last year to private and domestic energy firms.
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