nationalization -arbitration@ (Adds details on the decision, context)
HOUSTON, April 25 (Reuters) - An international arbitration court has ordered Venezuela's state-run oil company PDVSA to pay ConocoPhillips $2.04 billion for early dissolution of two joint ventures for producing oil in the OPEC-member country, the U.S. firm said on Wednesday.
Conoco's assets in Venezuela were expropriated in 2007 following a nationalization of the country's oil industry led by late President Hugo Chavez. The firm left the nation after it could not reach a deal to convert its projects into joint ventures controlled by PDVSA.
The arbitration decision, released by the International Chamber of Commerce (ICC), is considered by the company a first step in a series of legal actions to receive compensation for its assets in Venezuela.
The ICC has no means of enforcing its decisions, but Conoco said it would pursue enforcement and seek financial recovery of its award. Other companies seeking compensation from Venezuela have tried to enforce awards through various international and U.S. courts.
"The ruling upholds the contractual protections to which ConocoPhillips is entitled," said Janet Langford Carrig, the Houston-based company's general counsel who called the expropriation "unlawful."
Conoco had sought up to $22 billion from PDVSA for the broken contracts and loss of future profits from the Hamaca and Petrozuata oil projects. The agreements with PDVSA had price formulas that limited the compensation Conoco could claim.
A separate arbitration case by Conoco against Venezuela before the World Bank's International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) introduced in 2007 could issue a final decision later this year, a lawyer close to the case said.
A partial decision by ICSID in 2013 declared the takeover unlawful, considered by Conoco a "positive step" toward receiving more compensation for its Venezuela assets.
Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer served as legal advisor to Conoco.
ExxonMobil Corp, also brought two separate arbitration claims before ICSID and the ICC following the nationalization of its projects in Venezuela.
ExxonMobil last year unsuccessfully tried to enforce a $1.6 billion ICSID award after an annulment committee threw out nearly all of the arbitration decision that concerned one of two projects, reducing the payout to $188.3 million.
Exxon's assets in the Cerro Negro and La Ceiba oil ventures were also nationalized in 2007. (Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by David Gregorio)