A Trinidad and Tobago court has upheld a $1.33bn claim by ConocoPhillips against Venezuela for past expropriations, reported Reuters.  

The ruling allows the US oil company to seize any payments made to Venezuela from joint gas ventures with Trinidad.  

It may pose challenges to the development of key offshore gas fields, which involve countries and energy companies such as the National Gas Company of Trinidad and Tobago (NGC), Shell, and BP, the Reuters report said. 

Since securing arbitration awards against Venezuela and its state oil company PDVSA in 2018, ConocoPhillips has pursued enforcement in various jurisdictions, including the US and the Caribbean.  

In a telephone interview with the publication, Trinidad and Tobago’s high court judge Frank Seepersad said: “The order gives to the claimant a green light to be able to enforce the judgment in Trinidad if they can establish there are assets held by the defendants or there is money which is owed to the defendant by entities in Trinidad and Tobago.”  

However, ConocoPhillips declined to comment on the recent court order, the news agency said, adding that PDVSA, Shell, and bp did not respond to requests for comment. 

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NGC spokesperson Lisa Burkett stated that the company has not received any documents concerning the court’s decision and is continuing to work with partners and stakeholders on a gas project.  

PDVSA had settled approximately $700m to ConocoPhillips but stopped payments in late 2019. 

ConocoPhillips is also the principal claimant in a Delaware case aiming to auction shares in Citgo Petroleum’s parent company to satisfy creditors demanding more than $20bn in compensations.  

ConocoPhillips CEO Ryan Lance informed Wall Street analysts that the company’s involvement in the Citgo case is to “get the money that they owe us for the judgments that we have against the Venezuelan government for the expropriation of our assets.” 

Earlier in May 2024, the US Treasury Department issued a licence to bp and NGC to develop the Cocuina-Manakin gas fields, located on the maritime border between Trinidad and Venezuela.  

Additionally, a licence for the Dragon gas project in Venezuelan waters was granted by Washington in 2023.  

While these projects have not yet been declared financially viable or commenced operations, negotiations have advanced to compensate PDVSA for past investments in these fields. 

In its request to the High Court of Trinidad, ConocoPhillips stated its intention to attach any reimbursement paid to PDVSA.  

The court documents outlined the company’s application for “recognition of the award; judgment in the terms of the award set forth in the draft order accompanying the application; and permission to enforce the award.”  

PDVSA has been given a seven-day period to challenge the court’s decision made in favour of ConocoPhillips.