Angola Extends Bid Deadline for Two Offshore Oil Blocks

HOUSTON, Mar 22, 2006 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex)

Angolan state oil company Sonangol extended the submission deadline for proposals on two out of seven offshore oil blocks offered in the nation's latest licensing round, the company said Tuesday.

Proposals for Blocks 17 and 18, located in the deeper water of the lower Congo Basin, may now be submitted by May 8. That day, Sonangol will stage a ceremony to open the proposals, the company said in a press release.

Bids for the other blocks must still arrive by March 31. The opening ceremony for those leases will be held on April 3.

The extension came as Sonangol decided to separate the development of Blocks 17 and 18 from the construction of an onshore refinery in Angola.

When the bid round was launched in December 2005, Sonangol intended producers interested in these blocks to also undertake the SONAREF refinery project, but the company is currently in negotiations with another party interested in building the refinery.

The extension will allow small producers who wouldn't have considered the downstream investment "more breathing room" in elaborating a proposal for these offshore blocks, said Charles Lafkoff, a Houston-based consultant for IHS Energy.

Angola's offshore round has sparked the interest of major oil companies eager to boost production and reserves amid tougher operating conditions in countries like Russia and Venezuela.

In December, Sonangol pre-qualified 50 companies to bid for oil concessions in its offshore round, including BP PLC (BP), Italy's ENI (E), Chevron Corp. (CVX), Statoil ASA (STO) and France's Total (TOT).

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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