Venezuela sells natural gas exploration rights to ENI, Repsol, Petrobras, Teikoku

Venezuela on Tuesday awarded natural gas exploration rights for two areas in the Gulf of Venezuela to Italian energy company ENI SpA, Spanish-Argentine firm Repsol YPF, Brazil's Petrobras and Japan's Teikoku Oil Co. Ltd.

ENI and Repsol combined to offer a winning bid on one area of US$34.4 million (Ђ29.5 million), while Petrobras and Teikoku won rights to another area with a bid of US$19.5 million (Ђ16.7 million), said Rafael Ramirez, president of Venezuela's state oil firm, Petroleos de Venezuela S.A.

Rights to a third area were awarded to Venezuela-based Vinccler Oil and Gas, which offered a bid of just under US$7.4 million (Ђ6.3 million). Two other offshore areas attracted no bids, officials said.

The offshore natural gas project involves 29 areas spanning 30,000 square kilometers (12,000 square miles) in the Gulf of Venezuela. The area's reserves have yet to be proven, but they are estimated at some 24 billion cubic feet (720 million cubic meters), according to Venezuela's Oil Ministry.

The South American country has sold a total of six licenses to explore for and extract natural gas off the western city of Maracaibo, including two in September to Russian oil firm OAO Gazprom and U.S.-based Chevron Corp.

In the six offshore zones, Venezuela expects the companies to invest nearly US$200 million (Ђ171.42 million) during the next four years, Ramirez said, AP reported. V.A.

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