PDVSA: Drillship to Replace Sunken Semisub

CARACAS (Dow Jones)

Petroleos de Venezuela, or PDVSA, said Thursday it's replacing a natural gas exploration rig that sank four months ago with a drillship owned by Petrosaudi Oil Services Ltd.

In a statement, Venezuela's state-run oil company said the ship has already set sail for Venezuelan waters from a port in Malta.

PDVSA said the introduction of the drilling ship will allow for the "acceleration and completion" of productive offshore natural gas fields under the Mariscal Sucre project. Fields such as Dragon, Patao, Mejillones and Rio Caribe are expected to supply the needed gas to the local market, it said.

Venezuelan offshore gas is still in the exploratory phase. However, PDVSA has said it aims to start producing offshore gas by late 2012 and said that goal remains despite the sunken rig.

The announcement of the drillship's pending arrival comes after the Aban Pearl rig, owned by India-based Aban Offshore Ltd., sank in May off the coast of Venezuela, near Trinidad and Tobago, reportedly due to large waves that destabilized it.

All workers were safely evacuated before the rig proceeded to the bottom of the sea.

PDVSA said Petrosaudi Oil Services presented the best bid, technically speaking, and came out ahead in the process undertaken by "Socialist PDVSA." President Hugo Chavez said recently he planned to add the word "socialist" to the PDVSA name to reflect the country's move toward socialism.

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