An announcement by the Venezuelan government naming the oil and gas companies that will participate in the Delta Platform natural gas project should be made at the beginning of next week, according to state news agency VenPres.
"The process is delayed a bit due to the appointment of our oil minister as secretary-general of OPEC," Energy and Mines Director Luis Vierma was quoted as saying. The announcement was expected before July 10.
The blocks aren't expected to be awarded to one or two operators, but instead will go to a wide group of domestic and international companies. Major international companies such as Statoil, TotalFinaElf, ExxonMobil, BP and BG Group want to operate the five blocks with only one or two operators to avoid higher operating costs.
The Delta Platform, which is close to the border with Trinidad, consists of 27,000 square kilometers with estimated proven gas reserves of 20 trillion to 30 trillion cubic feet. The first exploratory well has produced 62 million cubic feet of natural gas per day.
The government already has a shortlist of companies that are seen as capable of operating the blocks. The project, which includes a liquefied natural gas plant on the Paria peninsula, could top $7 billion over the next six years and create thousands of jobs. The government is actively promoting natural-gas deals to reduce the nation's dependence on crude and refined products. It also wants to compete with neighboring Trinidad and Tobago on the export of LNG, especially to the U.S. East Coast.