PDVSA, Enarsa Sign Geological Studies Accord

Venezuela's state oil firm PDVSA has signed a letter of intent with its Argentine counterpart Enarsa to carry out geological studies of a block in Venezuela's Junin field in the Orinoco belt and an offshore area in Argentina's San Jorge basin, PDVSA said in a statement.

PDVSA and Enarsa will "study the potential, reserves and possibility of carrying out joint exploration," the statement said.

Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR) will "probably" participate in any exploration projects resulting from the studies.

The document was signed during a meeting between Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez, Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula Da Silva and Argentina's President Nestor Kirchner in Brazil's capital Brasilia last week.

The Chavez administration is keen on developing the country's vast reserves of extra-heavy crude in the Orinoco belt, said to top 235 billion barrels.

PDVSA and French oil institute IFP signed an agreement last week jointly to develop a new refining technology to process extra-heavy crude and residuals, which could greatly increase the market value of the Orinoco deposits.


Enarsa was created in October 2004 with a small staff but high hopes of reestablishing state presence in the hydrocarbons sector. Argentina's government wants Enarsa to participate in all new offshore E&P contracts.

The company has benefited from legislation that makes various benefits available to private sector operators if they choose to associate with Enarsa and has made agreements with other state energy companies such as Petrobras and PDVSA to implement joint projects.

PDVSA is not the only company to be attracted to Argentina's offshore exploration potential as Spanish oil major Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP) recently signed two agreements with Enarsa and other international partners to explore for hydrocarbons offshore Argentina.

Repsol YPF and Enarsa in partnership with Petrobras and Uruguay's state oil firm Ancap will form a consortium to explore for hydrocarbons in three blocks in the Colorado Marina basin.

Repsol YPF will act as operator with a 35% share. Enarsa will also have 35%, Petrobras 25%, and Ancap the remaining 5%.

Repsol YPF, Petrobras and Ancap will invest US$40mn-100mn in exploring the area. If commercially viable reserves are discovered, investment in joint development and production could reach over US$2bn due to the high-risk nature of deepwater drilling.

Repsol YPF will begin registering and processing 1,000 sq km of 3D seismic this year and plans to drill its first well in 2008.

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