Exxon Mobil and Conoco Phillips have refused to fall in line with a law passed by President Hugo Chavez's government forcing multinationals to give at least 60% of the capital in their Venezuelan operations to the state-controlled Petroleos de Venezuela SA (PDVSA).
Venezuela is one of the world's top 10 oil producers and a major supplier to the U.S., its biggest customer.
Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said on Aug. 30: "We are negotiating with the companies that have not accepted our laws in order to finalize their departure from the country." The minister said that the era of "oil openness is over" and highlighted that no compensation would be given to the U.S. companies.
"We have been very clear since last year: quite simply, it does not interest us to work with companies that do not accept our laws," Ramirez said as he left a Venezuelan parliament debate on energy. He added that those companies which do work with PDVSA would be allowed to stay in "the biggest oil reserve on the planet" for at least 25 years.
Venezuela is the only Latin-American member of OPEC, the main oil producers' cartel. Officially it produces about three million barrels of oil per day but the International Energy Agency has given a figure of 2.6 million. About half of the production goes to the United States. There is an estimated 230 billion barrels of oil in Venezuela's Orinoco field but 78 billion are proved.
Copyright Agence France-Presse, 2007