Peter Howard Wertheim
RIO DE JANEIRO, Sept. 25 -- Venezuelan and Iranian officials on Sept. 17 signed a series of accords, including deals to develop oil fields, build factories, and set up a $2 billion investment fund to finance the projects.
The agreement is part of Venezuela's 24-year, heavy oil development plan during 2006-30 centered within the Orinoco Oil Belt, with an extension of some 210 sq miles. The Orinoco Belt is south of Guárico, Anzoátegui, and Monagas states.
PDVSA estimates that the Orinoco Belt area contains 235 billion bbl of crude. The country currently reports reserves of 81 billion bbl, including Orinoco reserves of 36 billion bbl.
"We are in a program that should wrap up in November 2008," PDVSA Pres. Rafael Ramirez Ramirez said.
On Sept. 18, Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Venezuela's President Hugo Chavez witnessed the initial drilling of a well in an Anzoategui State field to certify reserves. Iranian company Petropars Ltd. is participating as the major partner in that field's development on Ayacucho Block 7, which extends for 500 sq km. Initial studies had indicated the existence of 31.2 million bbl of original oil in place, of which Petropars expects to recover at least 20%, or about 6 million bbl.
Petropars' well MFK-4E is located about 125 km from San Tomé. PDVSA has invested $1 million in drilling well PDV No. 2, which will quantify reserves.
With the drilling of these two first wells under the Orinoco Magna Reserve Project, Venezuela began the process of quantifying and certifying its Orinoco Belt oil reserves on Sept. 21.
The extensive Orinoco Oil Belt is divided into 27 blocks within four areas—Carobobo, Ayacucho, Junin, and Boyaca (see map, OGJ, Nov. 21, 2005, p. 54). PDVSA is certifying these blocks alone or in partnership with overseas companies.
In contrast to past policy, the country will exploit the Orinoco Belt oil in joint ventures with many international oil companies. Foreign oil companies currently working in the Orinoco Belt areas include ExxonMobil Corp., ConocoPhillips, BP PLC, Total SA, Statoil ASA, and Chevron Corp.
In participating in Venezuela's energy development, Petropars joins international companies such as Uruguay's state oil firm Administration Nacional de Combustibles, Alcohol y Portland, Russia's OAO Gazprom, Repsol YPF SA of Spain, Brazil's state-owned Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Argentina's Energía Argentina SA, China's state-owned China National Petroleum Corp., India's Oil & Natural Gas Corp., and Belorusneft Production Association of Belarus.
Venezuela recently reassured foreign oil firms that they could keep majority stakes in Orinoco heavy-crude upgrading projects but reiterated that the state would control upstream work with a stake of at least 51%.