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Petroleum News: Venezuela downplays recent seizures of oil fields from France’s Total, Italy’s Eni

Venezuela’s foreign minister said his country’s seizure of oil fields from France’s Total SA and Italy’s Eni SPA won’t hurt relations with other international investors.
The move “doesn’t affect anything,” Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez told The Associated Press April 4.
“Almost all of the companies, including firms as important as ChevronTexaco, as well as Repsol and many others, have created absolutely no problems about this,” said Rodriguez, who has been in Havana since early this year for treatment for a knee problem.
Venezuela’s Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez announced April 3 that state oil company Petroleos de Venezuela SA, or PDVSA, had taken control of Total’s Jusepin field and Eni’s Dacion field.
Together, they produced 115,000 barrels a day, before the two companies refused to turn operations over to state-controlled joint ventures.
ExxonMobil sold its stake
Exxon Mobil Corp. earlier sold off its stake in the 15,000-barrel-a-day Quiamare-La Ceiba field rather than submit to tightened terms.
Venezuela is the world’s fifth largest crude exporter and a major supplier of petroleum and petroleum products to the United States.
Some experts believe the new tough tactics employed on those unwilling to play by Caracas’ new rules could backfire on the government of President Hugo Chavez by scaring away partners that Venezuela needs to develop untapped reserves.
But Rodriguez said foreign petroleum companies remain “enchanted” with the potential returns on investing in Venezuela. He said the government’s measures “give much security, certainty and legal security to the firms that are signing now with Venezuela.”
Foreign energy investors in Venezuela are “backed by a law for hydrocarbons, and they are backed by a law for gas, and they are backed by the constitution,” he said.
Rodriguez, who was president of PDVSA until the end of 2004, said the contracts the oil company signed with foreign firms in the 1990s “didn’t have any legal backing … to the contrary, they were signed in violation of Venezuelan law.”
—The Associated Press

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