Indian oil companies plan to raise stake in $20-bn Venezuela project

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Summary* Representatives to visit country in October to discuss proposal

ONGC Videsh, Oil India and Indian Oil (IOC) plan to raise stake in Venezuela's $20-billion Carabobo-I oil project as Malaysia's Petronas looks to exit the project.

OVL has 11% stake in the project that will produce 400,000 barrels per day of oil (20 million tonne) in four years and is looking at buying a similar stake that Malaysia's Petronas has decided to give up. OIL and IOC hold 3.5% each.

"Indian companies' representatives will visit Venezuela on October 7 and 8 and have some concrete proposals worked out," oil minister M Veerappa Moily told reporters after meeting the visiting Venezuelean counterpart Rafael Ramirez on Tuesday.

"If Indian companies want to increase participation, I would welcome it," said Ramirez.

Reliance Industries, which gets about 20% of oil needs from Venezuela, is looking at raising imports while state-run firms like Indian Oil Corp (IOC) and HPCL-Mittal Energy Limited (HMEL) are keen to start buying oil from the Latin American nation.

Ramirez said Venezuela has a contract to sell 400,000 bpd of oil to India.

"India has very very huge refining capacity which is designed to processing medium and heavy crude oil which we produce... We are talking to increase the quantity of oil exported."

RIL currently imports about 300,000 bpd of oil from Venezuela for processing at its twin refineries at Jamangar in Gujarat.

It now wants to increase these volumes to the contracted levels of 400,000 bpd.

IOC wants to start importing 0.5 million tonnes immediately which it will raise to 1.5 million tonnes when its Paradip refinery is commissioned next year.

HMEL, too, is looking at importing at least 2 million tonnes of Venezuelean oil for processing at its Bhatinda refinery in Punjab.

Venezuela has offered RIL 2-3 oil blocks, including Boyaca 4 block, and a separate section in the Ayacucho area of the Orinoco belt. Both these areas can produce 2,00,000 bpd (10 million tonnes a year) each.

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