MIAMI, April 30 (UPI) -- India's Reliance India Ltd. is reportedly preparing to buy a stake in a major Peruvian oil block, marking yet another foray into developing markets in Latin America for the Indian energy giant.
RIL officials said the firm signed a deal with Pan Andean, a U.K. incorporated oil and gas explorer and producer in Latin America, for a 90 percent stake in block 141 on the Peruvian shore of Lake Titicaca.
The deal marks RIL's second foray into South America, with the India energy firm developing two blocks in Colombia.
"We believe that Block 141 contains highly prospective and potentially valuable structures," said David Horgan, managing director of Pan Andean Resources, in a statement this week, noting the project's startup price would likely run in the neighborhood of $40 million.
The block is still in the exploratory stage and subject to the approval of the Peruvian government, which in recent years has been courting more foreign oil firms than any other country in South America.
"What differentiates Reliance so far in its international effort compared to other Indian players is the fact that they have looked at building an 'exploration' portfolio and have not yet bought into producing properties -- this is largely guided by the need to own the project from the very start," Gauri Jauhar, an energy analyst with PFC Energy, told United Press International.
While nearby Venezuela and Bolivia have been imposing more restrictions on foreign companies operating in their countries, Peruvian President Alan Garcia has sought to open his country to various newcomers to country.
Garcia has said he hoped the oil and gas industry in Peru would attract some $3 billion in foreign investment and create thousands of jobs by the time his term expires in 2011.
So far, some 80 exploratory contracts have been awarded and at least two dozen blocks have been auctioned off in 2007 with 16 more available this year.
While Garcia and other Peruvian leaders tout expansion of foreign petroleum investment as the answer to the country's poverty, critics contend the president has done so at the expense of the country's shores and Amazon rainforest.
Environmentalists also contend Peru's indigenous population, some of who have never known contact with the outside world, is being threatened by the encroaching oil and gas developers seeking new deposits.
Meanwhile, India's state-owned ONGC Videsh Ltd., a subsidiary of India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. Ltd., signed Tuesday a deal with Venezuela's PDVSA to explore the country's oil-rich Orinoco oil basin, Globovision TV reported.
"It is the first association between the two countries (for petroleum)," Venezuelan Energy Minister Rafael Ramirez said.
OVL will reportedly hold a 40 percent stake in the project, while PDVSA will keep majority control in a majority stake agreement that has become standard fare for foreign firms operating in Venezuela.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez has sought to cultivate stronger ties with Asian nations in recent years in response to the growing oil and gas demand in growing economies like India and China.
In 2006 Chavez finalized a deal with Beijing for the construction of 24 drilling rigs in Venezuela and the purchase of 18 oil tankers with a $1.8 billion price tag.
Earlier that year, Chavez said Venezuela would like to increase oil sales to China to 300,000 barrels per day by the end of the year. Other officials in Venezuela said the increase would reach 200,000 bpd, up from the 150,000 bpd now.
Since assuming office in 1998, Chavez has courted China and other markets like India and even expressed willingness to sell fuel to North Korea. He has also cultivated closer ties with Iran, drawing sharp criticism from Washington and increased concerns about the foreign-policy leanings of the Venezuelan president.