Syria to Award Onshore Blocks by End of March

AMMAN (Dow Jones Newswires), March 16, 2011

The Syrian government will award contracts to explore, develop and produce hydrocarbons from four onshore blocks later this month, the country's oil ministry said in remarks published by his ministry's website Wednesday.

Sufian Alaw said international companies had submitted bids for four blocks out of the eight blocks announced earlier.

The ministry last year offered production-sharing contracts to explore blocks 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 14, 16 and 18, located mostly on the eastern and northern parts of the country. "The companies submitted their offers on four blocks only," Alaw said. "They are 3, 5, 7, and 12 while the remaining blocks didn't receive bids," he said.

The website said companies that had submitted bids for the four onshore blocks include Total, the U.K.'s Gulfsands Petroleum in alliance with Italy's Eni, China National Petroleum Corp., Dallas-based Improved Petroleum Recovery, Sweden's Svenska, and the U.A.E.'s Dana Gas.

Alaw also said Syria is poised to unveil later this month a new licensing round off its Mediterranean coast sometime during this month, the minister said. The move is intended to lure international companies interested in exploration drilling in the area following the recent big Leviathan discovery off Israel.

The minister said the ministry will be offering three offshore blocks.

The new round for offshore exploration will mark the third attempt by the Syrian government to revive interest in its offshore waters after two previous tenders. The government put an offshore round on hold in 2008 following failure by countries like Cyprus and Egypt to lure up firms to explore for hydrocarbons on their own waters.

However, after the discovery of the potentially giant Leviathan gas find offshore Israel by U.S. oil company Noble Energy Inc. (NBL) in December and significant gas discoveries in Egypt and the Gaza Strip in recent years could encourage companies to bid for Syrian offshore blocks, analysts said.

Syria aims to boost its crude oil production, which has declined from 590,000 barrels a day in 2006 to 380,000 barrels a day currently.

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