BP, Trinidad's NGC Receive US License for Gas Development with Venezuela

© pavalena / Adobe Stock
© pavalena / Adobe Stock

British oil major BP and Trinidad and Tobago's state energy firm NGC have received a two-year license from the U.S. Treasury Department to negotiate and develop the Cocuina-Manakin gas fields with Venezuela, Trinidad's energy minister said on Wednesday.

Washington last month did not renew a broad license that had allowed Venezuela to freely export its oil and receive investment, but it has since issued individual authorizations to companies trying to do business in the sanctioned South American country.

BP and NGC are now allowed to plan a project involving an offshore reservoir with about 1 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas reserves that extends from Venezuela to Trinidad, Minister Stuart Young said in a Port of Spain media briefing.

The authorization is the second issued by the U.S. for energy projects between the two countries, following a license in 2023 to Shell SHEL.L and NGC for the Dragon gas field in Venezuela. That project will export gas to Trinidad under the license, recently extended through October 2025.

"It's the same terms as Dragon, where we can pay in U.S. currency," Young said, referring to the new license, which would allow customers to pay for the gas in hard currency as an exemption to U.S. sanctions on Venezuela.

A spokesperson for BP had said earlier this month that the company had suspended negotiations for Cocuina-Manakin, which on Venezuela's side belongs to the Plataforma Deltana project, until receiving a U.S. authorization.

The company did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

France's Maurel & Prom MAUP.PA, Spain's Repsol REP.MC and the Caribbean island of Aruba have also received U.S. licenses in recent days to do business with Venezuela.

The authorization to Aruba is for importing Venezuelan fuel oil for domestic use, Prime Minister Glenbert Croes said this week.

Venezuela wants to start gas exports to secure another source of revenue for the oil-producing country, which remains under sanctions since 2019. 

Meanwhile, Trinidad needs the gas to feed its petrochemical and liquefied natural gas plants as its own productions dwindles.

Venezuela and Trinidad expect a third project involving gas reserves in both countries' waters, the Loran-Manatee fields, to also be jointly developed, officials have said.

Shell, which operates the area on Trinidad's side, has not made a final investment decision to give the financial go-ahead to Manatee. The Loran-Manatee fields hold some 10 tcf of gas.

"The last time I met with President Nicolas Maduro, him and I did discuss Loran, and so obviously that is something on our radar," Young said. "But you do it focused with a strategy, one by one."

(Reuters - Reporting by Curtis Williams; additional reporting by Tibisay Romero and Deisy Buitrago. Writing by Marianna Parraga. Editing by Marguerita Choy)

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