Sincor heavy oil project on stream in Venezuela

Production began Wednesday from the $4 billion Sincor heavy crude project in Venezuela, said stakeholder Statoil.

The project's partners, led by French company TotalFinaElf SA, are developing the field in the Zuata region, about 200 km from Caracas. Work began in 1998.

Production will rapidly reach 40,000 b/d of very heavy crude�8.5˚ gravity (OGJ, Oct.19, 1998, p. 58). The oil will be blended with 25,000 b/d of 30˚ gravity to produce 16˚ crude, which will be marketed internationally.

TotalFinaElf said output can be increased to 80,000 b/d or more of the heavy crude, depending on market conditions.

A plant under construction at Jose on the Caribbean coast, due to be completed in late 2001 or early 2002, will upgrade Sincor oil to a 32˚ low-sulfur crude, called Zuata Sweet.

Sincor production will thereafter be gradually increased to 200,000 b/d of extra-heavy crude oil, which will be diluted so it may be piped to the Jose facility.

First exports of Zuata Sweet are expected in early 2002.

TotalFinaElf owns 47% of the project; Petroleos de Venezuela SA, 38%; and Statoil owns 15%.

Also in Venezuela, Chinese state oil company China National Petroleum Corp. spudded a well in a previously untested portion of Intercampo field in Lake Maracaibo, said Statoil. The Norwegian company has an option to take 60% interest in the field.

The agreement with CNPC also allows the group to take over as operator of Intercampo, where the Chinese company is the sole licensee.

CNPC was awarded the job of reactivating the field in 1997, and started drilling Dec. 14.

Statoil has 90 days after drilling has been completed to determine whether it wants to participate in Intercampo.

This field is southeast of Lake Maracaibo's LL-652 area, another reactivation project in which Statoil has a 30% interest.

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