Venezuela says delays oil bid by three months

CARACAS, April 28 Tue Apr 28, 2009 8:57pm EDT

CARACAS, April 28 (Reuters) - Venezuela has delayed by three months a major bidding round for three projects to develop ultra-heavy oil in the Orinoco belt, state oil company PDVSA said on Tuesday.

Winners of the Carabobo bid will be announced on August 14, according to the PDVSA statement, compared to the original May 7 date announced at the presentation of the bid last year.

The statement did not offer a reason for the delay.

PDVSA is offering companies up to 40 percent stake in each of the three projects, that could each produce around 400,000 barrels per day of tar-like oil and turn it into lighter synthetic crude through special upgrading facilities.

The 19 companies participating range from U.S. oil giant Chevron (CVX.N) to China's CNPC and France's Total (TOTF.PA).

Industry sources say the projects offer low exploratory risk and vast crude reserves, but many are concerned that Venezuela may change the terms and conditions after the investment agreements are signed.

Many also worry about financing the projects, which will likely cost more than $10 billion each.

Venezuela is struggling to cope with last year's massive tumble in oil prices that have created a cash-flow crunch for PDVSA, the financial engine of President Hugo Chavez's social programs. (Reporting by Brian Ellsworth)

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