Venezuela to Announce Natural Gas Round Details in April

CARACAS, Mar 30, 2005 (ODJ Select via COMTEX) (Dow Jones)

Venezuela will announce the details of a bidding round for six natural gas blocks during the first week of April, the first step for private firms to develop natural gas reserves along the western coast, PDVSA, reported Wednesday.

Venezuela plans to sell a total of 29 natural gas blocks in the Gulf of Venezuela and surrounding areas, but only six in the first round. The oil ministry will also announce which companies are eligible to participate in the first round in April. Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez has said the blocks could be sold as early as the middle of this year.

Foreign and local oil firms are waiting for the government to finalize the terms of a natural gas bidding round, known as the Rafael Urdaneta project. Venezuela has 148 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves.

Venezuela has said the development blocks wouldn't stretch into a disputed maritime border with Colombia. The two countries have been disputing the maritime border in the Gulf of Venezuela for the past 40 years.

PDVSA plans to invest $9.5 billion to raise the country's natural gas output to 11 billion cubic feet per day by 2009, up from 6.3 billion cubic feet at present.

The company needs to get the natural gas out of the ground. PDVSA currently has a deficit of natural gas and plans to import gas from Colombia until it ramps up domestic output.

PDVSA injects natural gas into oil wells to maintain pressure in the reservoirs, and also uses natural gas in the petrochemicals industry. PDVSA hopes to begin exporting natural gas in 2009.

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