Caracas : Petroleos de Venezuela SA, the state oil company, said it leased an offshore platform from Petrosaudi Oil Services Ltd to replace the Aban Pearl rig that sank near Trinidad and Tobago in May.

Petrosaudi's Songa Saturno platform, which will be used to develop offshore natural-gas resources, left Malta in the Mediterranean Sea yesterday on its way to Venezuela, the company known as PDVSA said in an emailed statement.

"The incorporation of the rig will allow the acceleration and completion of the gas wells," PDVSA said.

Domestic supply

Venezuela, which has the biggest natural-gas reserves in Latin America and the seventh largest in the world, is trying to tap offshore reserves as production at mature fields wanes and President Hugo Chavez looks to supply the domestic market.

The Aban Pearl rig, owned by Chennai, India-based Aban Offshore Ltd, sank on May 13 because of a faulty floatation system, without causing injuries or fatalities. PDVSA hasn't made public the results of an internal investigation into the causes.

PDVSA is drilling wells in the Dragon, Patao, Mejillones and Rio Caribe fields in northeastern Venezuela as part of the Mariscal Sucre project. The natural gas will be transported to onshore terminals to be sold domestically or liquefied for export.

Venezuela is seeking some foreign partners to develop the Mariscal Sucre project, which is expected to cost $8.3 billion (Dh30 billion).