"We have to do it this year because we have production [of natural gas from the offshore blocks] scheduled. If we don't, we'll fall behind," said natural gas regulator Enagas president Jorge Luis Sanchez.
Delta Caribe, originally due to be awarded November 28, includes three blocks near La Blanquilla island and a fourth between the Orinoco river delta and Trinidad & Tobago.
The government delayed bidding in light of the December 2006 presidential elections.
The government invited 34 companies to participate in the auction, of which 13 paid for rights to take part.
The 13 are: Anglo-Dutch Shell (NYSE: RDS-B); Brazil's Petrobras (NYSE: PBR); Japan's Teikoku and Mitsubishi; France's Total (NYSE: TOT); US major Chevron (NYSE: CVX); Russia's Lukoil; Colombia's Hocol; Italy's ENI (NYSE: E); India's ONGC; Spain's Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP); Norway's Statoil (NYSE: STO); and Vinccler, the Venezuelan unit of Canada's PetroFalcon (TSX: PFC).
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