By Carlos Camacho
Latin American Herald Tribune
CARACAS -- Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez said Monday he wants to push forward new and existing oil and gas projects with landlocked former Soviet republic Belarus.
Chavez, who is recovering from chemotherapy and reportedly still suffering from related complications, met on Monday with Victor Sheiman, a special envoy sent by Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and over the weekend with a high level mission also from Belarus.
With Belarus “we will keep on advancing on the Orinoco oil belt,” Chavez said.
State oil company PDVSA directly awarded at least five oil blocks to Belarusneft, its Belarus peer, in Eastern and Western Venezuela including one in the Orinoco, and two gas blocks (Lama Lago and Lama 1) in oil-rich Zulia state, Western Venezuela. The two gas fields are new, announced by Venezuela today, however the other five oil fields were first awarded in 2008, and are operated by Bielovenezolana, a joint venture 60% owned by PDVSA with the other 40 owned by Belarusneft.
So far, the only block in commercial production is one in Eastern Venezuela producing some 20,000 barrels per day, a drop in the bucket of Venezuela's 2.97 million barrels per day of oil production.
Away from the oil front, an agreed-upon hostile stance towards the US from Chavez and Lukashenko has resulted in two-way trade that the Venezuelan government estimates at $2 billion for 2011 -- from zero when Chavez took over in 1999. The US for its part has repeatedly raised concerns about the growing authoritarianism and deterioration of democratic freedoms in both nations.
In additon to oil field development, Belarus and Venezuela have announced plans to build seismic data trucks for PDVSA (used to pinpoint the location of oil and gas deposits) as well as specialty pumps to be used in oil exploration and production.