Venezuela: US-owned oil-rigs nationalised

PDVSA president Rafael Ramirez

The head of Venezuelan state oil company PDVSA said on June 24 that the government is to nationalise 11 oil rigs previously operated by a US petroleum firm. This comes after the company, Helmerich & Payne, closed down production and refused to negotiate a new services agreement.

PDVSA president Rafael Ramirez said the nationalisation would “boost domestic production of hydrocarbons and strengthen the policy of full oil sovereignty”.

Helmerich & Payne ceased operations in the state of Anzoategui nearly a year ago, claiming it was owed US$49 million from the Venezuelan government in service payments.

But Ramirez argued that the company had not even sat down to negotiate. He said: “There is a managerial class within the drilling sector that has refused to negotiate service tariffs with PDVSA.”

He said Helmerich & Payne’s actions were part of a plan by private companies within the industry to cut oil production in order to weaken the government of President Hugo Chavez.

Ramirez said Helmerich & Payne workers had taken part in the nationalisation. He said they had occupied the plant to bring the idle state of the company’s drilling facilities to public attention.

Ramirez released figures showing PDVSA had spent $56 billion on social programs between 2001 and 2008. said on June 21: “The money went to health, education, food, and other programs. Ramirez specified that $28 billion went to the National Development Fund (Fonden, which in turn has spent the money on public projects such as transport and energy infrastructure, technology, housing, and medicine), $1.8 billion went to communities, $2.06 billion went to the basic literacy program Mission Ribas, and $5.7 billion went to the health mission Barrio Adentro.

“Also, PDVSA assigned $3.6 billion to agricultural projects, $2.8 billion to infrastructure projects, and $2.8 million to housing, said Ramirez.”

[Abridged from Venezuela Analysis.]

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