Saturday, January 23, 2010

Happy Talk: 500bn barrels of crude oil

Oil companies from around the globe are lining up to participate in the Carabobo oil drilling project, which seeks to open-up untapped fields of tar-like crude in the eastern Orinoco region. This is the most touted drilling project in the region since the 1990s, when oil companies such as ConocoPhillips (COP), Total S.A. (TOT), Exxon Mobil Corp. (XOM) and Chevron Corp. (CVX) built massive extraction and upgrading projects in the area.

The initial opening of the Orinoco oil belt resulted in a major production boost in the region, but ended in legal controversy, when state-owned Petroleos de Venezuela S.A. took over control of the projects in 2007 under a new hydrocarbons law. ExxonMobil and ConocoPhillips left, starting arbitration proceedings against the country. Chevron, Total and other international companies stayed.

Companies that in recent months have shown interest in making a bid for the Carabobo project include China National Petroleum Corp., or CNPC, Total, Spain's Repsol YPF SA (REP, REP.MC), Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA, RDSA.LN) and India's Oil & Natural Gas Corp., or ONGC (500312.BY). Scientists working for the US Geological Survey say Venezuela's Orinoco belt region holds twice as much petroleum as previously thought.

The geologists estimate the area could yield more than 500bn barrels of crude oil. Saudi Arabia has proven reserves of 260bn barrels.

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