Venezuela presented its latest plan to become a major exporter of LNG recently, despite disappointing results for a highly anticipated offshore natural gas drilling campaign.

The South American energy giant is apparently close to selecting partners to build two 4.7 million tpy LNG liquefaction trains and aims to be exporting gas by the end of 2014 at the latest, according to a Senior Executive with Venezuela’s state oil company PDVSA.

Venezuela has long harboured ambitions of becoming a major natural gas exporter since the large Mariscal Sucre gas fields were discovered north of the Paria Peninsula in the mid 1980’s.
Ruben Figuera said in a speech, at a conference hosted by the Institute of the Americas, “We are in the process of selecting our partners ... and hope to begin (engineering studies) in the third or fourth quarter.”

A drilling programme in the nearby Deltana Platform area was supposed to add nearly 40 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves to support a major expansion of the industry, but the results of the exploration campaign fell short. Proven reserves in the four Deltana blocks, where exploratory wells were drilled, total only 6.4 trillion cubic feet, the bulk of which is in Chevron Corp’s Block 2, where the Loran field was found.

The Loran field is believed to hold 5.7 trillion cubic feet of proven gas reserves, yet Block 4, operated by StatoilHydro AS, holds only 200 billion cubic feet of proven reserves, according to Figuera’s presentation at the conference.

“These are the numbers the companies presented. There is enough gas there for a project,” he told reporters.

The two liquefaction trains and associated pipelines to connect offshore gas fields with the export facilities are expected to cost $8.3bn, according to a 2007 PDVSA estimate. PDVSA is currently in talks with international energy companies including Chevron and Royal Dutch Shell Plc and state oil companies such as Algeria’s Sonatrach, to build the liquefaction trains.