Ministry to Tender 3 Deltana Gas Blocks in Early 2006

Venezuela's energy and oil ministry plans to tender exploration and production licenses for three natural gas-rich offshore blocks in eastern Venezuela's Deltana platform in early 2006, energy and oil minister and state oil firm PDVSA president Rafael Ramírez told BNamericas.

The three blocks are Punta Pescador, Guarapiche and Corocoro.

US oil major Chevron (NYSE: CVX) is already exploring for gas in blocks 2 and 3 of Deltana, while French state oil firm Total and Norway's Statoil are partnering on block 4.

PDVSA is building an underwater pipeline system to bring gas production from Deltana to Cigma and a billion-dollar liquefied natural gas (LNG) and petrochemicals facility to be built in the area, Ramírez said, adding the idea is to take advantage of the pipeline by exploring for more gas in Deltana.

The three blocks to be tendered in early 2006 "are the first stage," Ramírez said. More blocks will be tendered later next year.

At a presentation for Andean-region plastic manufacturers in mid-November, PDVSA Gas president Aníbal Rosas said up to seven areas could be offered in 2006, including five blocks in the Deltana Platform and two in the Gulf of Paria.

Also PDVSA will partner with Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) to explore four other blocks in the Mariscal Sucre region, Rosas said at the time.

PDVSA recently awarded three offshore gas blocks in western Venezuela in the second phase of the Rafael Urdaneta project but plans to carry out more seismic studies in the area before restarting the project in 2007.

The three new Deltana blocks will follow the same tender format of Rafael Urdaneta, Ramírez said, meaning companies will present bids in closed envelopes and the highest bidder will win.

The winners in Rafael Urdaneta phase 2 were Vinccler Oil & Gas, the Venezuelan unit of Canadian oil company PetroFalcon, Brazil's Petrobras, Japanese energy firm Teikoku, Italy's Eni and Spain's Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP).

PDVSA currently produces about 6.5 billion cubic feet a day (Bf3/d) of natural gas, most of which is used for secondary crude recovery, with the remainder, some 2.2Bf3/d, for uses such as thermal power generation, refining and petrochemicals production.

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