03/06/2013 04:25 EST | Updated 05/06/2013 05:12 EDT

Hugo Chavez Death Could Impact Calgary Oil Patch


New leadership in Venezuela after the death of Hugo Chavez could have a positive impact on the oil and gas sector in Calgary, some analysts say.

The controversial socialist president died after a battle with cancer on Tuesday, throwing the already divided country into a state of uncertainty.

If the road to determining a new leader becomes rocky, Canadian oil companies could benefit, said Bob Schultz, a professor at the University of Calgary's Haskayne School of Business.

Instability in governance could affect oil production and raise prices in North America, he said.

"There are very few Calgary companies operating in Venezuela. But the companies in Western Canada could benefit if there are problems in Venezuela," Schultz said.

Canadian oil companies will be watching closely to see if Venezuela becomes open for business, said Bill Gwozd, who is with Ziff Energy Group in Calgary.

Under Chavez’s watch, oil and gas assets owned by international oil companies, such as Exxon Mobil, were nationalized in order to make Petroleos de Venezuela, S.A., or PDVSA, the majority stakeholder in all Venezuelan projects.

There has been no indication from PDVSA whether it will invite more foreign investment or increase its own investment in new production.

But it is possible the country will now seize the opportunity to pursue free trade, said Gwozd.

"If you want to be a power and you want to grow your country, dealing with all countries, on an open basis, is prudent and positive," he said.

"Over time, if the energy bridges can be built, then it may allow more oil exploration,” he added.

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