What lies ahead?
The question now is what lies ahead for the country's oil sector. For western investors, the hope is that Chavez's successor will shift focus to allow Venezuela to regain its peak oil production, while also allowing policies that encourage outside investment.
However, some believe Chavez's death will likely not have an effect on the market. Oswald Clint, an oil and gas analyst at Sanford C. Bernstein & Company, recently stated that any profound change in the country's oil sector is unlikely, according to a report by Bloomberg.
“The death of President Chavez increases uncertainty over the political direction of Venezuela in the short term,” he wrote in a note. “However, we believe the most likely scenario is one where the current environment for international oil companies continues.”Tim Evans, an energy futures specialist at Citi Futures, is of the same opinion. "In the near-term, we certainly had some uncertainty," he told CNBC, adding that he does not expect a dramatic shift in Venezuelan production any time soon."What I expect to see is a period of mourning in Venezuela, during which oil production will continue at current levels — and then they'll gather themselves for the required elections." That said, a number of majors will be watching the proceedings with great interest. In an interview with CNBC, BP's CEO, Bob Dudley, confirmed that the company may look at investing in Venezuela again if the “right conditions” exist. Enrique Sira, senior director at energy consulting company IHS CERA, weighed in with his thoughts. “What you would hope for is a very different investment environment," Bloomberg reported Sira as saying. Under the right conditions, Sira foresees “a significant inflow of experienced, knowledgeable people, technical resources and capital flowing into Venezuela.” Despite the country's abundant potential, investors would also do well to remember that Venezuela's role in the global oil market has diminished over the years.