Suriname unclear about private ownership of hydrocarbon reserves

Jun 09, 1998 02:00 AM

Apr. 8, 1998 The Surinamese government's attempts to attract foreign companies into its tiny oil industry have come under fire from internal opposition and trade union groups.
Despite having a deal pending with Shell's subsidiary Pecten to explore for new oil fields offshore, the government of this former Dutch colony in South America has begun talks with two other consortia for a production-sharing agreement including the country's only producing field.
Opposition groups in the National Assembly argue that the government is selling the country short by offering a stake in the Tambaredjo field, which pumps 10,500 bpd of crude. The field is already proven to contain 153 million bbl of heavy crude reserves, and state oil company Staatsolie Maatschappij Suriname plans to double output in 3 or 4 years.
Questa Engineering Corp., a U.S.-based consultancy working with Californian Venoco, and the Canadian affiliate of New Zealand's Fletcher Challenge Energy, have both undertaken recent trips to Surinamewith a view to taking a stake in the field and other exploration.
Any such deal would have to be approved by the National Assembly because it conflicts with the Petroleum Law of 1990, which forbids private ownership of oil reserves.
Shell and Staatsolie had hoped to get government approval for their exploration deal by January, 3 months after they applied, but the government put it on hold after relations between Suriname and the Netherlands deteriorated sharply.
Dutch justice officials announced last August that they had asked Interpol to arrest Suriname's former military leader, Desi Bouterse, to face drug smuggling charges.

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