Archive for November 16th, 2009

How many “rojo-rojitos” PDVSA workers does it take to count 100 oil drilling rigs?

November 16, 2009

Since 2003 after the oil strike, the magnitude of Venezuela’s oil production has been quite controversial, with PDVSA insisting that it produces over 3 million barrels of oil a day and both OPEC and AIE reporting numbers around 20-30% below these levels.

You can argue forever about oil production, mor so if PDVSA does not give much details.

But it it is difficult to create or miscount oil drilling rigs. They are big, there are no more than 3,000 around the world and everyone knows who makes them, sells them or leases them.

In fact, Baker Hughes, an oil service company in the US keeps track of oil drilling rigs around the world. The number of oil drilling rigs in Venezuela given out by Baker Hughes in the last three or four years has disagreed with the official number of PDVSA, which PDVSA has always explained away by saying that Baker Hughes only counts private rigs and that PDVSA has its own. Baker Hughes makes no such differentiation and their only caveats as to their rig count is that they do not count inner Russia and China.

But today’s El Mundo (Which has become a business newspaper and is getting quite good, but needs a subscription on the Internet) compares PDVSA’s “official” rig count with that of OPEC and comes up with this graph:

As you can see, in the last few years, there are huge differences in the number of working oil rigs in Venezuela reported by OPEC and the last few years the difference has become simply huge, with PDVSA saying today that it has 150 active drilling rigs versus the 57 that OPEC reports.

And OPEC has no reason to lie, in fact, Venezuela is one of the most prominent members of OPEC, if the numbers were so far off, you would think Venezuela would complain and the number would be checked. Venezuela could even supply information if needed.

Thus, one has to assume bad faith or incompetence. Either PDVSA leaders are faking the data to attempt to continue to fool the world (few people believe them) or we have to ask the old question: How many “rojo-rojitos” PDVSA workers does it take to count one hundred drilling rigs, after all, PDVSA ahora es de todos (belongs to all of us).

The truth is that if PDVSA had that many active oil rigs, an all-time high in Venezuela, production should be going up steadily, instead PDVSA reports the same production, while OPEC and IEA report small drops almost yearly.

Ramirez thinks he can fool all of us, but the more you lie and fake numbers, the more they become unsustainable. And this one is simply unsustainable.


Oil Sowing Program: Ideology slows progress

November 16, 2009


It is not easy to build a power plant, complete a project, maintain a dam, keep a company from losing money. You need experts, professionals and the like. Because Chavismo prefers people who are very loyal, they have problems with all of this.

But even more surprising, the Chavez Government has had problems with completing bidding processes which are key to the country´s future. The reasons are many, they also have to do with the quality of people running the processes, but the main stumbling blocks that slows progress is simply ideology.

Last Thursday, PDVSA was supposed to finally give companies that want to bid for the heavy crude Carabobo oil field as part of the “Oil Sowing” program the final terms for the bids. This process has been delayed over and over and when the company failed to hand them over on Thrusday, it guaranteed that at least another six months will go by without the fields being awarded to anyone.

To give you an idea, when these projects were conceived, the scheduled called for the bidding process to be finished by December 2007 and the first barrel was supposed to be produced in August 2009 and the first upgraded barrel by 2011. Just to remind you, when you exploit a filed of heavy crude, you begin production of very low grade crude fairly rapidly, but the real deal comes when you finish the upgrader, a chemical-heat plant/process that allows you to improve the quality of the oil and sell it for much more. (More profit for PDVSA and the partner)

While the deadline was likely to be optimistic, the real delay is that idelogy has dominated the Government’s thinking and conditions are not that attractive.

Compare Venezuela’s Conditions with those of Alberta, Canada which has heavy oil fields of shale oil (These were Alberta’s conditions two years ago, they may have chanegd):

Venezuela                                Canada

Onwership         60% PDVSA                        100% company

Tax Rate              50%                                    25%

Royalty                33%                                    0% to 16% in time

Arbitration         Not International                    International

Financing           100% but you own 40%        100%, you own 100%

And therein lies the problem. A Government that has nationalized similar operations, breaking contracts and confiscating property, not only wants no international arbitration, but also wants to impose very tought conditions on minority partners, including that they provide 100% of the financing, given that PDVSA has no money to invest.

People always argue that the oil business is always good, however, think about it, if oil company X has to fund the project from its own credit lines, those are funds given to PDVSA, that you could use elsewhere to fund 100% of your ownership in a project.

Contrast this with the way this was funded in the terrible days of the IVth. Republic, where the projects were partnerships and these partnerships either issued bonds or borrowed money from banks as stand alone entities.

Remarkably, Chávez needs this. As oil income drops and production drops, one way out of this trap is to produce more oil and that was the idea of the Oil Sowing program, but any new revenue from this looks far into the future.

The Minsiter of Oil an Mines has said that he is willing to lower the royalty rate, but none of the other conditions. This seems to be the main reason while conditions were not announced, companies privately said that they would not participate under those terms.

Ideology has held back the process so far, we shall see in the next few days if a little pragmatism prevails . It probably will, after all, you can always nationalize them later.