Enarsa to Offer Four Offshore Blocks Next Year

BUENOS AIRES Oct. 24, 2007 (Dow Jones Newswire)

Argentina's state-run energy firm, Enarsa, plans to offer four new offshore oil and gas blocks early next year, a top Enarsa executive told Dow Jones Newswires.

The contracts will require Enarsa, a 25-person holding company that began operating in 2005, to own a 51% stake in the blocks, Enarsa's top offshore planner Rodolfo Pereyra said in an interview Tuesday night at the biannual Argentina Oil and Gas Expo.

"We expect to announce the call for bids in about 90 days," Pereyra said. "That's the tentative plan."

Enarsa currently has three blocks - E1, E2, and E3 - which are being led by Spanish-Argentine company Repsol YPF SA (REP); Chile's state-run Enap Sipetrol SA, a unit of Empresa Nacional del Petroleo SA, or Enap; and Brazil's state-controlled Petroleo Brasileiro SA (PBR), or Petrobras, respectively. Enarsa's stake in those blocks runs between 33% and 35%, a cut on par with the operator, Pereyra said.

Asked if the 51% Enarsa stake requirement would make the upcoming call for bids unattractive to potential partners, Pereyra said: "We'll see. It's a first round."

Of the initial three blocks, the E2 area operated by Enap Sipetrol is the most advanced, with seismic studies completed. But with only two or possibly three exploratory well sites identified, it remains too expensive to bring in an offshore drilling platform, Pereyra said. Enap Sipetrol reported a year ago that it was waiting for an exploratory drilling rig.

Pereyra said Enarsa has been in talks with the operators of a non-Enarsa-controlled offshore block about pooling exploratory well sites in order to rent a platform together. He declined to identify the company, however. Non-Enarsa blocks are operated by Enap Sipetrol, France's Total SA (TOT), and Repsol.

Meanwhile, seismic collection recently wrapped up at the E1 site, and data processing and analysis will likely take all of next year, Pereyra said. The E3 site is still in pre-seismic study.

In all, Enarsa holds the rights to 62 blocks off Argentina's south Atlantic coastline.

Copyright (c) 2007 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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