Venezuela to Open Opegasur to Middle East, Asia

Venezuela will invite member countries in the gas-exporting countries' forum (GECF) to enter Opegasur, the OPEC-style organization for natural gas producers the South American country is promoting.

The South American country will make the announcement at the next GECF meeting scheduled for April 9 in Doha.

"What started as merely a South American initiative will expand to include some of the world's largest producers in the Middle and Far East," Jorge Luis Sanchez, president of Venezuelan gas regulator Enagas, said in reference to Opegasur.

Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez is promoting Opegasur, which was launched in January and has attracted Argentina and Bolivia as members.

In addition to setting prices through production quotas, Opegasur would finance E&P projects and have member countries share E&P technology.

Other GECF-member countries such as Algeria, Qatar, Iran and Russia are ready to launch a similar natural gas organization styled on OPEC at the Doha meeting, Venezuela's state news agency ABN reported on Monday.

"It is absolutely right these interests [of gas-producing countries around the world] come together," Sanchez said. "Natural gas is more important every day, it's more expensive every day."

Sanchez has represented Venezuela three times at GECF, which is four-years-old. Trinidad & Tobago also is a member of GECF, which does not set prices.

State-owned PDVSA Gas, an affiliate of state oil firm PDVSA, dominates natural gas production in Venezuela with more than 90% of the total.

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