Aban Offshore to Retrieve Sunken Rig

CARACAS (Dow Jones Newswires), May 14, 2010

Aban Offshore, the owners of a natural gas exploration rig that sank off the coast of Venezuela, will retrieve the rig from the bottom of the sea, an official at state-run Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, said Friday.

PDVSA had leased the Aban Pearl rig last year from India-based Aban Offshore as part of a plan to begin extracting Venezuela's massive, but untapped offshore natural gas reserves.

But late Wednesday night, the platform's flotation devices began taking in water. Within three hours, at 2:20 a.m. Thursday local time, the rig had completely sank. The 95 workers on the rig, which was located in the northeastern waters of Venezuela near Trinidad and Tobago, were safely evacuated and officials say no environmental harm was done.

Eulogio Del Pino, vice president of exploration and production at PDVSA, said Friday that Aban Offshore has decided to "rescue" the rig for its assets, including some 400,000 liters of gas-oil on the rig that were being used for electricity generation.

Del Pino said the gas-oil is "sealed airtight" in a chamber, so there's no chance of leakage.

Investors sold off Aban Offshore sales in India after news of the rig's sinking. The oil field services provider's stock was pushed down to its lowest level in about 10 months Friday in India, down some 17% at one point.

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