Venezuela Expects to Begin Production from Deltana in 2009

c, state news agency Venpres said in a statement.

The ministry said exploration of Block 3 and Block 5 bordering Trinidad & Tobago should begin sometime between this 2003 and 2007, with production beginning in early 2009.

Earlier this month the government announced it would sign contracts for the two blocks with foreign firms in mid-December. Blocks 2 and 4 were won by ChevronTexaco and Statoil in February.

The statement did not make clear a schedule for Blocks 2 and 4, but Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said in February that the country planned to start exporting gas by 2007 or 2008.

Venezuela, the world's No. 5 crude exporter, plans to build a 4.7 million ton per year liquefied natural gas (LNG) export terminal to diversify its oil-reliant economy. It plans to complete the plant in four to six years to sell LNG to the growing U.S. market.

The government says around 22 companies have expressed interest in Blocks 3 and 5, including ExxonMobil, ChevronTexaco, and ConocoPhillips, as well as Lukoil and Statoil.