Trinidad and Venezuela sign border gas field deal

Mon Aug 16, 2010 9:19pm BST

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* Agreement divides 10 TFC Loran-Manatee field

* Bilateral talks often stalled in the past

CARACAS Aug 16 (Reuters) - Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela signed a long-awaited agreement in Caracas on Monday to develop natural gas reserves on their maritime border.

The "unitization of reserves" accord gives Venezuela 7.3 trillion cubic feet (TCF) and Trinidad 2.7 TCF of the Loran-Manatee field, which is estimated to hold 10 TCF.

Negotiations on developing the field, which straddles the maritime frontier between the two oil producing neighbors, stalled several times during recent years.

Trinidad lies just 7 miles (11 km) from Venezuela's most eastern point but relations between the two Caribbean nations were cool under former premier Patrick Manning, who was replaced by Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar in May.

"For Trinidad, this means the continuity of their extraordinary plans for natural gas development," Venezuelan Oil Minister Rafael Ramirez told reporters after the signing.

"Trinidad has been a pioneer in this sector for our continent, and for Venezuela this means we will be able to have access to the quantities of gas we have on our side," he said.

Unitization of reserves deals are aimed at avoiding and resolving conflicts about how much belongs to each side. Technical teams from both countries had already agreed how to divide the gas reserves ahead of Monday's meeting.

Trinidad's Energy Minister Caroline Seepersad-Bachan told Reuters last week that the signing of the deal would show how both nations had matured in their relations. [ID:nN13206959]

"It is a new beginning for both peoples ... We will be looking at others areas where we can also make agreements," she told reporters on Monday in Caracas.

"Our exploration experience has not been as successful recently as in previous years, and for us this deal is very important to help in our production and refining of gas."

Venezuela gave Chevron Corp. (CVX.N) the green light earlier this year to extract natural gas from the Plataforma Deltana, which includes the Loran field. Chevron is a partner with BG Group (BG.L) in the Manatee field on Trinidad's side.

The signing of the bilateral agreement comes at a time when Trinidad and Tobago is looking for new energy resources to turn around a steady decline in its natural gas reserves. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga and Daniel Wallis; Editing by Frank Jack Daniel and Sofina Mirza-Reid)

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