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    Russian firms sign cooperation deals with Venezuelan oil giant - 2

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    Russian energy companies have signed cooperation agreements with Venezuela's state oil and gas company as part of President Hugo Chavez's official visit to Russia.

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    BARVIKHA (Moscow Region), July 22 (RIA Novosti) - Russian energy companies have signed cooperation agreements with Venezuela's state oil and gas company as part of President Hugo Chavez's official visit to Russia.

    Anglo-Russian oil venture TNK-BP and Venezuela's PDVSA agreed on the joint study of the Ayacucho-2 area in the Orinoco oil belt in Venezuela.

    TNK-BP said that in line with the agreement, TNK-BP and PDVSA will prepare technical and commercial proposals for a prospective joint project "which will provide for production of extra heavy crude, improvement of crude quality, and export sales of the improved crude."

    The companies will set up a steering committee to manage activities of a joint working group. The working group will carry out the research and design activities necessary for the project's evaluation and its optimal implementation.

    The joint study agreement is a step on from the memorandum on assessment and certification of reserves at the Ayacucho-2 block signed by the two companies in October 2007.

    Since January 2008, a group of TNK-BP technical and commercial experts has been stationed in Venezuela to work on the project together with PDVSA. Joint activities have included examination of available reserve data and obtaining new data through drilling and testing of new appraisal wells.

    Russian state-run energy giant Gazprom signed a deal with the Venezuelan company on the appraisal and certification of the Ayacucho-3 oil fields. A decision was reached to start preparing a feasibility study for investment in the development of a heavy oil field in the area.

    LUKoil and PDVSA signed a memorandum of understanding and an agreement on joint exploration in the Junin-3 area, also in the Orinoco belt.

    LUKoil said in a news release that a joint study would be performed to evaluate the project in terms of extra heavy oil production, refining in Venezuela, and export. The parties will share expenses for the study on an equal basis, and the agreement will be effective for two years with a possibility of extension.

    The previous agreement on Junin-3 was signed by LUKOIL and PDVSA in October 2005 for a term of three years. "Obligations under this agreement, related to quantitative assessment and certification of heavy oil reserves in the area covering 678 square kilometers, have been fully discharged," the news release says.

    "The results of these studies were certified by Ryder Scott, an independent engineering company, and officially approved by the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum of Venezuela."

    The documents were signed in the presence of Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

    Chavez told the Russian leader: "We are happy to be here, and this is an excellent opportunity to promote and improve our relations and open up new horizons."

    Medvedev said the Russian-Venezuelan talks would give "another powerful impetus" to bilateral relations.

    Venezuela is one of the largest oil producing countries in the world, with about 87 billion barrels of proven conventional oil reserves. In addition, it has huge non-conventional oil deposits (heavy oil). Most of these deposits are located in the Orinoco oil belt.

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