Gabon selects seven companies for a final round of negotiations as part of an offshore licensing round the government hopes will reverse a chronic decline in output, the country's oil ministry says.
DAKAR, July 21 (Reuters) - Gabon has selected seven companies for a final round of negotiations as part of an offshore licensing round the government hopes will reverse a chronic decline in output, the country's oil ministry said on Monday.
The new blocks are located in deep offshore waters - an exploration play that is expensive and uncertain but potentially very rewarding given the similarity of geological structures to oil-rich Brazil, where billions of barrels of oil have been discovered.
Former OPEC member Gabon produces about 230,000 barrels per day (bpd), down from a peak of close to 400,000 bpd in the 1990s.
An oil ministry statement said that Impact Oil & Gas, Repsol , Perenco, ExxonMobil, Marathon, Petronas and Ophir were ranked highest for the nine blocks due to be allocated.
"These companies listed are invited to finalise negotiations for the signature of the relevant CEPPs (exploration and production-sharing contracts) as soon as possible," according to a statement signed by Minister for Oil and Hydrocarbons Etienne Dieudonne Ngoubou.
The statement showed that Cobalt, Noble, Royal Dutch Shell and Total were ranked lower down the pecking order for the blocks. The ministry said it had the right to open negotiations with the lower-ranking contenders if talks with the first-choice companies were unsuccessful.
Bids for another eight blocks offered "did not reach the expectations of the Gabonese Republic", the statement added.
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