Algeria launches oil/gas exploration round

Algeria, launching its latest energy exploration and production licensing round, invited on Sunday foreign and Algerian firms to apply for pre-qualification to bid for what it called high potential oil and gas blocks.

The round, the first since April 2005, has been keenly awaited by multinationals preparing to compete for permits to explore for oil and gas in Algeria, among the world's top oil and gas reserves owners and a major gas exporter to Europe.

An Energy and Mines Ministry statement said: "Projects that shall be tendered concern perimeters located in the most potential fields of the Algerian mining sector. Such projects include zones with a high potential of oil and gas".

"All persons interested shall submit a pre-qualification request to the National Agency for the Valorisation of Hydrocarbon Resources (ALNAFT)," it said.

"Given the imminence of inviting tenders" pre-qualification requests should be submitted as soon as possible, it said.

The statement gave no details of the blocks on offer in the oil and gas round, the country's seventh, but indicated they would include onshore and offshore areas.

Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil was quoted on Sunday as reiterating that the OPEC member country would offer opportunities in 15 exploration blocks.

Government-run newspaper El Moudjahid quoted Khelil as saying the successful candidates would be chosen on the basis of various criteria including their ability to support Algeria's goal of boosting its growing international upstream role.

Khelil was quoted as saying the choice would be made not only on the basis of "technical competitiveness, but equally on the reputation of the partner and what it can bring in terms of technology and know-how including environmental protection which is very important, without forgetting, of course, everything to do with our opening internationally."

State energy conglomerate Sonatrach, a major gas exporter to Europe, has been busily expanding abroad and Khelil has repeatedly said that Sonatrach was seeking strategic partnerships that gave it access to international reserves.

Algeria's oil reserves of 12.3 billion barrels, according to the BP Statistical Review, should last for more than 20 years and its gas reserves of around 159 trillion cubic feet will last around 50 years at current production rates.

Some 40 international oil firms already have acreage in Algeria, according to consultants Wood Mackenzie.

Sunday's statement said successful companies would receive a pre-qualification permit for a three year period that would determine the role they could tender for -- either as an investor-operator or only as an investor.

© Algiers, Reuters 2008. All Rights Reserved

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