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Brazil Sets 11th Oil, Natural Gas Concession Auction for May

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RIO DE JANEIRO - Brazil will hold its much-anticipated auction of new oil and natural gas exploration concessions on May 14 and 15, beefing up the so-called 11th bid round with additional blocks under order from President Dilma Rousseff, the Mines and Energy Ministry said Wednesday.

The 11th-round auction, the first since December 2008, will include 289 exploration blocks, said Marco Antonio Almeida, the ministry's secretary for oil and natural gas. Mines and Energy Minister Edison Lobao had said earlier this month that the 11th round would include 172 blocks, with about half of the blocks inland and half offshore.

The fresh round of bidding is expected to generate a surge in activity across Brazil's oil industry, which was running out of areas to explore in the absence of concession auctions. Oil companies had warned that exploration could dry up as soon as 2015 without new sales of exploration acreage.

The ministry also said that the first of auction of subsalt exploration acreage under new production-sharing agreements had been preliminarily set for Nov. 28 and 29. Billions of barrels of oil have been discovered in the subsalt region, where oil and natural gas were found trapped deep beneath the ocean floor under a thick layer of salt.

The subsalt bid round would be followed by the sale of unconventional oil and natural gas concessions, the same type of shale and tight gas acreage that sparked an oil-industry revolution in the U.S., on Dec. 11 and 12.

The 11th round will include areas in Brazil's equatorial margin, which runs from Bahia state to Amazonas state in the country's far north. Some of the blocks from the canceled eighth bidding round also will be included in this round, the ministry said.

Copyright (c) 2012 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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