Drilling Results in Paria East Studied

The partner companies exploring for oil and natural gas in Venezuela's Gulf of Paria East are studying the results of two exploration wells to determine if the area is commercially viable, said a source familiar with the project.

"The two wells have been finished; the rig moved off about a month ago," said the source. He said the partners in the project are evaluating the drilling results "to be able to delineate the size of the discovery."

ConocoPhillips (COP) has a 37.5% interest in Gulf of Paria East. Other partners include ENI SPA (E) with 30%, Venezuelan firm IneParia with 25%, and OPIC Karimun Corporation, an affiliate of Taiwan's Chinese Petroleum Corporation, with 7.5%.

The source said the Delfin 2X exploration well found "a fair amount" of heavy oil, while the Punto Sur well found oil and natural gas.

Company spokespeople weren't immediately available for comment. On its Web site, ConocoPhillips said two exploration wells were planned for Paria East in 2004.

State oil company Petroleos de Venezuela's says it expects foreign oil companies to invest close to $10 billion from 2004 to 2009 to help nearly double oil production to 5 million barrels a day.