Statoil to Drill Gas Well at Venezuela's Delta by End '04

Statoil will begin drilling its first exploration well at the offshore Deltana natural gas field in eastern Venezuela by the end of this year, said Erik Pascal Johansen, a project manager for the company's operations in the Americas.

Statoil has a contract to operate block four at the Delta, and will seek a minority partner in the coming years if the field proves commercially viable. He said the company expects to spend $60 million in the exploration phase, which includes a total of three wells.

"We will start to drill the first well towards the end of this year," said Johansen. "And the other two wells probably next year."

He said the company is well positioned to market the natural gas in the U.S., where the company has a stake in the Cold Point regassification plant along the East Coast.

"We have a lot of capacity and access to the U.S. market," he said. "What we need now is the gas."

He said Statoil will go ahead with plans to expand capacity at Cold Point regardless of what it finds in the Delta, and expects the expansion to be completed by late 2008 or 2009.