Russian oil companies want consortium in Latin America

CARACAS, September 17 (RIA Novosti) - Five of the largest Russian oil companies want to set up a consortium to boost operations in Latin American countries, a deputy prime minister said Wednesday.

Rosneft, LUKoil, Gazprom Neft, Surgutneftegaz and TNK-BP came up with the proposal.

Igor Sechin, who chairs the board of state-controlled Rosneft, Russia's largest oil company, said: "It would be strange for Russia, which shares first place in global oil production with the Saudis, not to interact, say, with Venezuela, which holds fifth or sixth place."

"The idea of creating a consortium comprising almost all the large Russian oil companies came from the companies themselves, which would like to work in Venezuela, and not only here," he said at a briefing in Caracas summing up his working trip to Cuba and Venezuela.

Sechin said Russia is increasing its cooperation with Latin American countries in several areas.

He said a consortium would make it easier to build upgrading facilities to improve heavy Venezuelan oil. The construction of an upgrader would cost $6-6.5 billion, which would be hard for one company to finance, but a consortium could share the expenditure, he said.

Venezuela has around 87 billion barrels of proven conventional oil reserves. In addition, it has vast non-conventional oil deposits (heavy oil). Most of these deposits are located in the Orinoco oil belt.

Venezuelan oil company PDVSA signed a deal with Russian energy giant Gazprom this year to evaluate and certify the Ayacucho-3 oil fields in the Orinoco belt. LUKoil signed a memorandum of understanding and an agreement with the company on joint exploration in the Junin-3 area, also in the Orinoco belt.

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