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October 27, 2006
Statoil confirms initial Venezuela gas discovery

OSLO - Norwegian energy group Statoil (STL.OL: Quote , Profile , Research ) confirmed on Friday that it had discovered gas in an exploration well in block 4 of Venezuela's Plataforma Deltana, but said it was too early to say anything about volumes.

On Thursday, Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez said that Statoil had found a reserve of seven trillion cubic feet of gas in Plataforma Deltana, which lies off eastern Venezuela.

"Statoil confirms initial findings of gas in a well being drilled in block 4 of Plataforma Deltana," Statoil's spokeswoman Rannveig Stangeland told Reuters. "The drilling operations are still ongoing, and it is premature to confirm any volumes," Stangeland said. "The drilling operations are expected to be completed next month."

Statoil has a 51 percent interest and is operator of the block 4 licence. France's Total has the remaining 49 percent. Venezuela's PDVSA Gas has a right to acquire a participating interest of up to 35 percent once a commercial discovery has been declared. The exploration well, called Cocuina-2X, was begun in August from Transocean's Sovereign Explorer rig.

It is the second of three wells that Statoil is committed to drilling under the licence awarded in 2003.
The first of the three wells, Ballena-1X, was abandoned last year due to mechanical failures and worries about the safety of the drilling rig, but the company said in August that it plans to re-enter that well. The third well, dubbed Orca-1X, is expected to be drilled in 2007.

The company has estimated the cost of the three-well programme at around $200 million. Statoil has said that the exploration period would be followed by two-year appraisal period before a decision on development would be made.

Statoil has been present in Venezuela for 11 years. In addition to the Plataforma Deltana exploration, it is partner with PDVSA and Total in Sincor, a heavy crude oil development in the Orinoco Belt.



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