Angola Awards Offshore Oil Blocks to Total, ConocoPhillips

LONDON (Dow Jones Newswires), Jan. 24, 2011

Angola Monday granted rights in offshore blocks to western oil companies, reviving a licensing effort bogged down for over two years as prices rise close to a $100 a barrel.

In a surprise decision, Africa's second largest oil producer awarded blocks to French major Total and U.S. independent company ConocoPhillips, the companies said, among other winners.

Though it's offshore has yielded prolific oil discoveries in recent years, Angola suspended a tender for some deepwater blocks late 2008 amid crumbling oil prices.

A rebound in crude futures, along with technologies easing exploration in riskier geologies, have provided new appetite for the area.

Companies have, in particular, expressed interest for Angola's presalt--a layer of salt accumulated millions of years ago under the sea--that mirrors giant finds offshore Brazil.

A Total spokesman said, "We received an award of three offshore blocks, including two were we should be the operator."

ConocoPhillips said in a statement it has been awarded concessions to explore in two ultra-deep water blocks.

It's unclear if the awards were part of the tender that stalled in 2008 or a new round that was never made public. A spokesman for Angolan concessionary Sonangol couldn't be reached.

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