|04CARACAS2254||2004-07-15 19:17:00||CONFIDENTIAL||Embassy Caracas|
P 151917Z JUL 04 FM AMEMBASSY CARACAS TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6980 INFO OPEC COLLECTIVE AMEMBASSY BOGOTA AMEMBASSY BRASILIA AMEMBASSY LA PAZ AMEMBASSY LIMA AMEMBASSY PORT OF SPAIN AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHDC NSC WASHDC DEPT OF ENERGY WASHDC
C O N F I D E N T I A L CARACAS 002254
1. (C) Energy Vice Minister Luis Vierma told Emboffs July 12
that Venezuela is currently producing 3 million b/d of oil.
He also provided a glowing overview of upcoming projects,
both for Petroleos de Venezuela (PDVSA) and the private
sector. Most industry analysts, however, continue to put
Venezuelan production at 2.5 million b/d and believe it is
dropping slowly. We are also skeptical that PDVSA has the
managerial or the technical capacity to push many new
projects forward. End summary.
2. (U) On July 12, Econcouns, accompanied by Petroleum
Attache, met with Vice Minister for Hydrocarbons Luis Vierma
to discuss a wide range of issues. His comments on the GOV's
vision of "PetroAmerica" are presented in septel.
3. (C) Vierma repeated the GOV claim that Venezuelan
production is approximately 3 million b/d and offered a
glowing tour d'horizon of projects included in the 2004 PDVSA
budget and beyond. Starting his summary in western
Venezuela, Vierma said that the engineering for the cryogenic
complex, a gas liquefication project designed to help
alleviate gas shortages, is underway. He verified press
reports that PDVSA had recently started drilling a well in
the Tomoporo oil field (more details on this important field
follow in septel) and said the company also plans to explore
for gas in the southern part of Lake Maracaibo.
4. (C) Moving east to the giant Paraguana refinery complex,
the world's largest, Vierma said a debottlenecking is planned
as well as a new refinery line and a new coker. He added
that the Ico Project, the gas pipeline planned to
interconnect the gas production areas in eastern Venezuela
with the gas-starved west, is also now underway. Continuing
in the theme of gas development, Vierma said that PDVSA plans
to explore for deeper gas reserves in Anaco and to expand the
natural gas liquids production capacity at the Jose
Industrial Complex for processing that gas. In eastern
Venezuela, PDVSA will press ahead with the delineation of
discoveries in the Tacata, Chaguaramal and Cotoperi oil
fields. In addition, Vierma said that PDVSA President Ali
Rodriguez will shortly announce the positive results of a
well drilled in the Travis field in northern Monagas state.
Vierma asserted that by the end of 2004, PDVSA will have 120
rigs at work, either drilling or performing well workovers.
OFF-SHORE & OTHER PROSPECTS
5. (C) Turning to activities off-shore, Vierma said there
will be a ceremony August 1 to mark the launch of drilling by
ChevronTexaco in Block 2 of the Deltana Platform gas project.
The official license for Block 3 will be granted to
ChevronTexaco at that ceremony, said Vierma. Statoil is
expected to begin drilling in Block 4 in November. Vierma
added that seven additional off-shore blocks (expected to be
gas blocks) will be opened for bidding within the next few
weeks: five in the Gulf of Venezuela and two in waters off
Falcon state. When asked what the delay has been (the
opening of this bid round has been long awaited), Vierma laid
the delay at the feet of the Foreign Ministry, saying it has
been carefully checking the coordinates of the proposed Gulf
of Venezuela blocks to avoid areas in dispute with Colombia.
Vierma said the GOV is also considering re-opening the five
gas blocks that were not bid in 2001 (Note: only two of
seven gas blocks received bids at that time). He added that
the blocks would probably be expanded to make them more
attractive to bidders.
NEGOTIATIONS UNDER THE HYDROCARBONS LAW
6. (C) In response to a question about the status of
negotiations under the Hydrocarbons Law, Vierma confirmed
that talks are continuing with Repsol over the migration of
its operating contract for the Mene Grand field to a joint
venture under the 2001 law. (Note: Rumors have held that
the agreement is close to completion. Vierma, however, was
less positive, saying that the valuation of reserves is a
sticky problem.) He confirmed that besides U.S. independent
Harvest International, Lukoil and Algeria's Sonatrach are
also considering taking over the operation of small fields
under the terms of the 2001 law.
7. (C) With respect to the expansion of the extra-heavy crude
projects in Venezuela's Orinoco Heavy Oil Belt, Vierma said
the GOV has had discussions with the companies that now
operate projects - ChevronTexaco, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil,
Statoil (Norway) and Total (France) - as well as others
including Amerada Hess, Marathon, Eni (Italy) and Shell. In
order to make new projects possible under the Hydrocarbons
Law, he said, they are being conceptualized differently.
Instead of the current model in which each project has field
production feeding directly into its own dedicated upgrader
(i.e, to refine the tar-like crude into lighter synthetic
crude), the new model would call for field production by a
mixed company 51 percent owned by PDVSA while up to 100
percent of the company handling refining and
commercialization could be owned by the private sector.
Vierma added that PDVSA has almost finished the work of
determining how future blocks will be apportioned.
8. (C) Vierma repeated the GOV mantra of 3 million b/d
national production and even said that PDVSA would increase
its own production by the end of 2004. This claim is greeted
with skepticism by most industry analysts who believe that
Venezuelan production is actually approximately 2.5 million
b/d and dropping slowly. Our own conversations with service
company representatives who have first hand knowledge of
activities in Venezuela's fields lead us to doubt the GOV
claims. Vierma's list of upcoming projects is also
impressive but many of them have been on the drawing board
for years. We are skeptical that PDVSA has the managerial or
the technical capacity to push these projects forward in
accordance with Vierma's bright dream.