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Algeria Invites Bids for Oil & Gas Exploration

Source: Reuters 6/30/2009, Location: Africa

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Algeria has launched new oil and gas exploration and production round on Tuesday, hoping for better results than last year when it awarded only a quarter of the licences on offer.

The government invited pre-qualified companies to bid for acreage that contained what it called high potential petroleum resources.

A statement on the Energy and Mines Ministry Web site said the deadline for bids for 10 areas containing 25 blocks was 10 a.m. on Dec. 20, 2009 and that bids would be opened 30 minutes later.

Contracts for the winning bids would be signed on Jan. 16, 2010 at 1400, the statement said.

"The selected zones are in different Algerian sedimentary petroleum basins offering a high potential in petroleum resources," said the statement by the ministry's National Agency for the Redevelopment of Hydrocarbon Resources (ALNAFT).

The major Ahnet basin, which was removed from a previous licensing round, was included in Tuesday's tender. The statement said prequalified companies would receive a general technical presentation on July 27, and data rooms of detailed information on each project would be open in a session from Aug. 15 to Oct. 22.

On the new round, Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil, speaking on the sidelines on a gas meeting in Doha on Tuesday, said Algeria would favour companies with technology suited to exploiting its more difficult gas deposits. British Petroleum, Amerada Hess, Statoil, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Repsol and Total are the main foreign companies involved in exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Algeria.

OPEC-member Algeria is among the world's top owners of oil and gas reserves and a major gas exporter to Europe. It aims to increase gas exports to 85 billion cubic metres by 2013 from 62 billion cubic metres now.

But the country has had mixed results attracting foreign oil firms to invest in new exploration and production. In a previous tender in December 2008, it awarded only four licences out of a total of 16 on offer.

It was the first round to be held under a 2006 law that gives Algerian state energy giant Sonatrach a mandatory minimum 51 percent share in every oil and gas exploration contract awarded to foreign companies.

Analysts said the law fitted with an environment of high oil prices but seemed too restrictive since energy prices tumbled last year.

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