Venezuela Offers India's ONGC Videsh 5 Oil Fields

ONGC Videsh Ltd. has been offered five oil fields for joint exploration and production by Venezuela, Managing Director R.S. Butola said Wednesday.

"Venezuela has offered two exploration and three discovered oil blocks to us," said Butola, adding that a high-ranking Indian delegation will visit Caracas toward the end of September to study the blocks on offer. ONGC Videsh is the overseas exploration arm of the state-run firm Oil & Natural Gas Corp.

Earlier Wednesday, Venezuelan Foreign Minister Jesus Arnaldo Perez met India's Petroleum Minister Mani Shankar Aiyar and ministry officials in New Delhi.

Aiyar is scheduled to attend the G-15 energy ministers' meeting in Caracas in late September.

"We will make attempts to finalize cooperation between India and Venezuela in the hydrocarbon sector," said Aiyar.

Separately, Butola said ONGC Videsh is looking at the prospect of buying stakes in oil fields located in Mauritania, Ivory Coast, Cuba and Cameroon.

"We are in talks with these countries. So far, nothing has been finalized," said Butola, declining to elaborate further.

ONGC Videsh earlier bought stakes in upstream ventures in Iraq, Russia, Vietnam, Iran, Syria, Libya, Myanmar, Angola and Sudan to supplement domestically produced oil and gas.

Monday, it said it had reached an agreement with Canada's Antrim Energy Inc. (AEN.T) to acquire a 55% stake in an oil and natural gas exploration block offshore Australia. Antrim's currently holds a 87.5% stake.

"Our current assets are estimated to hold reserves of 223 million tons oil and oil equivalent gas. We are at present getting about 4 million tons a year of oil and oil equivalent gas from our share in properties located in Sudan and Vietnam," said Butola.

India imports about 70% of the crude oil it uses, and more than 60% of its imports are from the Middle East. The country's annual domestic consumption of petroleum products is estimated to be close to 108 million tons.