CARACAS – Venezuela has received bids for all three projects in the Carabobo bidding round in the Orinoco heavy oil belt, sources said on Thursday, with major oil companies Chevron and Repsol among the bidders.

The government of leftist Hugo Chavez has drawn interest across the oil industry despite nationalizations of Orinoco projects just three years ago that boosted concerns political risk in the OPEC nation.

"We received offers for each of the areas," said a source close to the process, who asked not to be identified. "We're pleasantly surprised."

Two consortia put in bids, one made up of Chevron, Venezuela's Suelopetrol and Japanese firms Mitsubishi, Jogmec, Inpex, and another including India's ONGC, Spain's Repsol and Malaysia's Petronas, the sources said.

Both Chevron and Repsol have maintained good relations with the Chavez government, in contrast to the ConocoPhillips and Exxon Mobil which are suing Venezuela over the 2007 takeover of their stakes in Orinoco belt projects.

The projects, slated to produce 1.2 million barrels per day, are crucial for Venezuela to turn around its slumping production and ensure future revenues after the 2008 oil price crash left state-run company PDVSA with a major cash crunch.

Industry experts had said the smallest of the three projects ran the risk of receiving no bids.


But one of the sources added that these two consortia were the only bidders, meaning several companies Chavez has openly courted did not make offers.

These include China's CNPC and Russian firms such as Lukoil and Gazprom. It would also mean Shell, which has proprietary technology for heavy oil production, also did not bid.

Chavez has sought out investments from national oil companies from developing countries such as Russia and China in efforts to reduce Venezuela's traditional reliance on U.S. energy markets.

The projects include the construction of heavy crude upgraders that can turn Orinoco's tar-like oil into valuable synthetic crude with estimated investments of $10 to $20 billion for each project.

The winning bidders are required to put up a bonus of at least $1 billion for the two larger projects and $500 million for the smallest, plus a minimum $1 billion loan to Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA for each of the areas.