Shell Hopes To Sign Venezuela Natural Gas Deal Soon

Shell hopes to sign a joint venture agreement with PDVSA in the next few months to begin development of the Mariscal Sucre offshore natural gas field, Frank Duffield, Shell's vice president of gas and power in Venezuela, said Thursday.

"What we need to do is finalize development concepts and put in place a joint venture agreement," said Duffield.

"I'm sure this will happen in the next few months," he added.

Shell has signed preliminary agreements with PDVSA to take a 30% stake in the project. If the joint venture agreement goes through, Duffield said Shell would invest in exploratory wells and engineering over the next two years. He said the company will probably not begin investing in a liquefaction plant until late 2005. The plant would convert natural gas into Liquefied Natural Gas, or LNG, for export to the U.S. market.

Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said he hopes to see Venezuela exporting natural gas by 2007, but Duffield said this would probably not happen until 2008. He said Shell plans to export Venezuelan natural gas to terminals it operates in the Gulf of Mexico and the U.S. east coast. Shell expects total investment in the project to range from $2.5 billion to $3 billion.