PDVSA, Statoil, Total in Sincor Talks

Venezuela's state oil firm PDVSA is in talks with its partners in Sincor, the largest Orinoco extra-heavy crude upgrade project, to increase its stake in the venture, a Sincor spokesperson said.

The partners are France's Total (NYSE: TOT) with 47% and Norway's Statoil (NYSE: STA) with 15%. PDVSA has the other 38%.

"Representatives from the three companies have met specifically about this and will continue meeting. No agreement has yet been reached," the Sincor official told reporters.

The failure to reach an agreement on upping PDVSA's stake in Sincor during talks in December was one reason why President Hugo Chavez announced early January that the four Orinoco projects would be nationalized, energy and oil minister and PDVSA president Rafael Ramirez said.

On Tuesday, US oil and gas major ExxonMobil (NYSE: XOM) told BNamericas it was in talks with PDVSA regarding Cerro Negro, another of the Orinoco projects. An Exxon spokesperson said the solution being discussed was the formation of a joint venture in which PDVSA would have at least 51%, similar to other E&P projects in Venezuela.

The four Orinoco projects - Ameriven and Petrozuata as well as Cerro Negro and Sincor - have capacity to produce 620,000b/d oil but, according to the International Energy Agency, are churning out less than 600,000b/d. Sincor is by far the largest with production of almost 200,000b/d.

Other foreign partners in the Orinoco projects are the UK's BP, US major ConocoPhillips (NYSE: COP) and fellow US oil and gas major Chevron (NYSE: CVX).

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