TIRANA, June 8 (Reuters) - Albania delayed by a month to mid-July the bidding for companies keen to explore for oil and gas on five onshore blocks and indefinitely for two offshore blocks, officials said on Monday.
A week before offers for the onshore bids was due on June 15, Energy Minister Damian Gjiknuri ordered the bidding date be postponed for another month to give companies more time.
"What can you do when the second or third biggest oil company in the world asks you for more time," a senior official at the Energy Ministry told Reuters when asked about the delay.
The move is also set against friction between Albania and Greece after Albania's top court repealed a 2009 agreement to divide their continental shelf.
Part of one of the offshore blocks, the Ionian 5, offered by Albania three weeks ago overlaps with the area of the Ionian Sea near Corfu in which Greece also wants to let companies drill.
With both hard-up countries now determined to search for oil offshore, the sovereign rights on the seabed and subsoil risk delaying the process until their dispute over rights to the waters in the Ionian Sea is resolved.
Neither of the big oil players that rushed to Albania soon after it toppled communism in 1990 have struck it rich, but a promising initial finds by a venture of Shell and Petromanas have whipped up interest.
Now bidders have until July 15 to express their interest for blocks 4, 3, Dumre, C and 4 onshore.
"The deadline for the handover of the applications for the sea blocks, due to the consolidation of the seismic data, will be postponed for another deadline," Gjiknuri said.
(Reporting By Benet Koleka, Editing by William Hardy)