So far much of the discussion over what is driving the bizarre Trump Administration intervention into Venezuela centers around the comments of National Security Adviser John Bolton to claim it’s about oil. In a previous analysis we looked at the prospects of the huge Chavez Basin, formerly the Orinoco Basin, said to hold the world’s largest reserves of oil by some definitions. Now it’s becoming clearer that this de facto war is about far more than control of the heavy oil of the Chavez Basin in Venezuela.
First it’s important to look at which oil companies were already staking various claims on the region’s oil prospects. Within Venezuela, Chinese oil companies led by China National Petroleum Corporation, and the Chinese government have been playing a major role since the Chavez era. In fact the role has become so great Venezuela’s government owes China some $61 billion. Because of the financial problems of the Maduro government, China has been taking debt repayment in form of oil. Since 2010 the Russian state oil company, Rosneft has been involved in joint projects with the Venezuela state PDVSA, mainly in the Orinoco/Chavez Belt. Some years ago Rosneft extended some $6 billion in loans to Venezuela to be also repaid in oil. A recent statement from Rosneft says that $2.3 billion is due by end of this year. Rosneft has participation in five oil projects and 100 percent in a gas project. In addition to CNPC and Rosneft, France’s Total SA, Norway’s Equinor, and US Chevron all hold minority stakes in Venezuela projects, with most vowing to stay despite the political crisis. That raises the question what they know beyond the well-documented heavy oil of Venezuela.
The real prize?
The real prize that these powerful international oil giants are eyeing likely lies well to the east of the Orinoco heavy oil fields where they now operate. The real prize is the ultimate control over one of the best-kept secrets in the oil industry, the huge oil reserves of a disputed area straddling Venezuela, Guyana and Brazil. The region is called Guayana Esequiba. Some geologists believe the Esequiba region and its offshore could contain the world’s largest reserves of oil, oil of far better quality that the heavy Orinoco crude of Venezuela.