No, seriously. Baker Hughes’ rig counts show a serious surge in drilling activity in Venezuela in recent months. Check it out:
Yes that’s right, Venezuela’s rig count is at its highest since before Hugo Chavez took office. (Big hat tip to Patrick Esteruelas at Moody’s, who flagged the rising rig counts in a note yesterday.)
And look at it in comparison to other countries in the region: Venezuela is back to being the biggest drilling market in Latin America, for the first time in a decade.
To look at it another way, here are how countries divide up the oil, gas and “miscellaneous” rig market in Latin America.
The minor countries, including Trinidad and Tobago, Bolivia and Ecuador (all of them significant fuel exporters, but not major drillers) are all grouped together. The most remarkable thing to note here is that when Venezuelan drilling declined, back in the days of $10 barrels of oil and general depression across Latin America, drilling was a two-player game. Venezuela and Argentina dominated Latin America. Since then, Colombia, Brazil and Mexico have all picked up the pace. There are a few lessons in this chart. One is that when governments want to promote drilling, holes will be drilled. Another is that whenever it wants to, Venezuela can once again become the dominant fossil fuel country in the region. It has the oil, perhaps the world’s last great terrestrial oilfields. It just needs the incentives.
And finally, it looks like Venezuela’s government may be taking oil production seriously. Check this out, hoisted from commenter Otto:
“Están excluidos los nuevos desarrollos y los proyectos que incrementen producción. El criterio es que las empresas que estén trayendo dinero para producir más no sean pechadas”, dijo a Reuters Rafael Ramírez, quien también preside la estatal PDVSA… Pero según explicó el ministro, la producción incremental que logren las empresas mixtas quedó exonerada del pago del impuesto, así como la extracción de los nuevos proyectos de la Faja del Orinoco, que tienen por delante decenas de miles de millones de dólares para los próximos años.
And here is what that seems to mean: Mr. President does what he wants, but we sat him down and explained that his wacky Thursday-night decree was ill-advised, so we gutted it. It won’t apply to any expanded oil production, including new developments in the Orinoco Belt. Now back to your drill rig. Get to work before we expropriate you. Scoot.