Venezuela Seeking Foreign Partners in New Discoveries

Minister of Energy and Mines Rafael Ramirez told state news agency Venpres oil majors including ExxonMobil, Shell, TotalFinaElf and Statoil had expressed interest in developing several new oil fields discovered by PDVSA. The government has described the discoveries, including the western Tomoporo field and unnamed fields in the east, as significant finds.

"In Tomoporo, there are important concentrations of medium crude which can produce around 1.5 billion barrels," Ramirez told the news agency.

Venezuela is interested in attracting foreign investors to develop these new oil fields.

The government says output has been returned to pre-strike levels after it fired more than 16,000 PDVSA employees for participating in the stoppage. Oil analysts say cuts in PDVSA's exploration and production budget, due to losses accrued during the strike, as well as the loss of experienced personnel may hinder the company's ability to develop new oil fields.

Foreign companies have also been critical of a nationalistic hydrocarbons law passed by Chavez in 2001 that increased royalty payments and the minimum level of state participation in oil developments. They say the terms are not competitive with contracts offered by other countries and need to be amended.