Venezuela Ministry Prequalifies 21 for Gulf Tender

Venezuela's energy ministry has pre-qualified 21 companies to participate in a tender for gas exploration contracts on seven blocks in the Gulf of Venezuela and in northern Falcón state, news source Multipuerta reported.

The ministry is preparing a data pack with seismic information that will be sold to companies for US$100,000-$250,000. The data pack will be available by the end of September, newspaper El Universal reported.

Although the tender has been delayed from its scheduled August launch, officials said the tender is on track with the pre-qualification of companies. The ministry has previously indicated that the blocks would be awarded towards the end of the year. Estimated investment in the blocks in the next three years is between US$300mn and US$400mn, the paper reported.

The pre-qualifiers are reportedly Exxon-Mobil, Shell, Statoil, Total, Eni, Conoco-Phillips, Repsol-YPF, Petrobras, Petrocanada, BP, Amerada Hess, CNPC, America Limited, Pluspetrol, Inepetrol, Teikoku, Vinccler, Zonatrah, BG Group, BHP Billiton and Marathon Oil.

Companies participating in the tender must have experience with offshore gas exploration, access to local and international markets, and sufficient financial capacity. They also must accept the participation of local companies, hydrocarbons deputy minister Luis Vierma has said.

The Colombian government has expressed concern that some of the blocks could include territory that is under dispute between the two countries. However, Venezuela's foreign affairs minister Jesús Pérez says the tender will take place in areas without border disputes.

"Oil cannot become a subject of discord between both countries," Pérez said.