Amos Global Energy Waits For License to Develop Gas Resources Offshore Venezuela

(Reuters) - Houston-based investment fund Amos Global Energy is waiting for a license from the U.S. Treasury Department to complete the purchase of Chinese Sinopec's stake in a shallow-water oil and gas project in Venezuela, the company said on Tuesday.

Washington last month did not to renew a broad license that had allowed Venezuela to freely export its oil and take in new investment following Venezuela's failure to meet a pact for a competitive election. The U.S. instead has begun issuing individual authorizations to companies wanting to resume or start operations in the South American country.

The U.S. recently granted France's Maurel & Prom and Spain's Repsol licenses to continue and expand oil and gas projects in Venezuela. More than 20 other firms are waiting for green light.

Companies willing to do business in the sanctioned country's energy industry need the licenses for specific transactions, including investments.

Amos, which in 2022 formed a joint venture with a unit of Venezuela's engineering firm Inelectra to gain access to minority stakes in the Petroguiria and Petroparia projects in Venezuela's promising Paria Gulf area, is now looking to expand its influence there.

If its proposal to buy Sinopec's 32% in Petroparia is completed and cleared by the U.S., Amos and its partners would control 40% of that project and 16% of neighboring Petroguiria, said Ali Moshiri, Amos' chief executive.

"We applied for the license a year and a half ago, and we are hopeful that will get it in the coming weeks," Moshiri told Reuters.

Amos has made initial contact with Italy's Eni to negotiate its possible participation in a third project in Paria, Petrosucre. All of the company's targeted private sector transactions in Venezuela are expected to be backed by the U.S. license.

"The three projects must be developed together," the executive said. Crude output is planned to be a priority, but gas has a large potential, he said.

Petrosucre is the only active project in Paria, but crude production there has dwindled to less than 3,000 barrels per day (bpd) since U.S. sanctions in 2019 froze the joint venture's exports to the United States.

Crude and associated gas reserves have been proven in Paria, but Moshiri - a former Chevron top executive in Venezuela - believes the shallow-water area can anchor a large gas project.

"Investors looking at Venezuela now are more excited with the possibility of putting money for gas, especially for liquefied natural gas (LNG)," he said, explaining that gas well productivity is high and the country does not have major transportation issues.

Venezuela has about 30 trillion cubic feet of non associated gas reserves, which remain largely undeveloped due to lack of investment, and more recently US sanctions.

"The country's strategy has shifted to focus on the possibility of processing the gas at Trinidad and Tobago's LNG facilities, but Venezuela has gas enough of its own for a LNG development," Moshiri said.

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