Chevron Corp. (CVX:US), Total SA (FP) and Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA) are among 13 companies that bought information packets for Venezuela's auction later this year of four offshore natural-gas tracts, Petroleos de Venezuela SA said.
Only about a third of the 34 companies that Petroleos de Venezuela invited to participate in the auction paid the $350,000 fee to receive the packets as a prelude to possible bidding, the Caracas-based state oil company said in a press statement today.
U.S. companies such as Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips, both of which have been hit by Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez's decision to raise royalties on their operations, declined to participate. Winners will be announced on Oct. 28.
Venezuela, which has the world's eighth-largest natural gas reserves, is counting on private companies to develop its deposits. The South American country auctioned off similar blocks last year in the Gulf of Venezuela.
Venezuela expects investment of $172 million during the next four years to develop the four blocks, which may have gas reserves of as much as 11 trillion cubic feet, Petroleos de Venezuela President Rafael Ramirez said earlier this month.
Other companies to buy the packets included Petroleo Brasileiro SA, Teikoku Oil Co., Mitsubishi Corp. (8058), OAO Lukoil, Hocol, Eni SpA (ENI), India's ONGC, Repsol YPF SA, Norway's Statoil ASA (STL) and PetroFalcon.
Three of the blocks are about 130 kilometers (81 miles) north of Venezuela's eastern Sucre state while the other block is off the coast of Delta Amacuro state.
The country, which traditionally has focused on developing oil reserves, is trying to increase gas production to end a shortage of the fuel.
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