ATHENS, Feb 2 (Reuters) – Greece will decide soon on the awarding of three onshore natural gas exploration licences in the west of the country in its second licensing round, Energy Minister Panos Skourletis said on Tuesday.
Greece, which clinched a third bailout with international creditors in August, has made several fruitless attempts over the last 50 years to find big oil and gas reserves. Its debt crisis has prompted the country to step up those efforts.
"The decision on the bids that have been submitted as part of the tender for the exploration of the onshore blocks is expected in the next coming days," Skourletis told an energy conference.
Two companies, Greece's biggest oil refiner Hellenic Petroleum and the country's sole oil producer Energean Oil & Gas, submitted bids for the blocks last year but are still waiting for a government decision.
Hellenic Petroleum - in a venture with Italy's Edison and Ireland's Petroceltic - and Energean Oil were the winners of drilling licences for three onshore and offshore blocks in western Greece awarded in 2014.
Petroceltic pulled out from the investment last year, selling its rights to its Greek and Italian partners after tumbling oil prices hurt its business.
Greece has also tendered 20 offshore blocks in the Ionian Sea and south of the island of Crete for deep sea oil and gas drilling and received three bids last summer.
Skourletis did not say when those offers would be evaluated.
(Reporting by Angeliki Koutantou; editing by David Clarke)
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