East Timor Launches Bidding Round for Petroleum Exploration

CANBERRA, Aug 17, 2005 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex)

East Timor's Prime Minister Mari Alkatiri on Wednesday formally launched the nation's first bidding round for petroleum exploration rights in the Timor Sea.

"This bidding round marks the first time that petroleum companies will be able to acquire rights to explore for petroleum resources in areas under (East Timor's) jurisdiction," Alkatiri, also the impoverished nation's Minister for Natural Resources, Minerals and Energy Policy, said in a statement.

The launch follows the recent parliamentary approval of a legal framework for the development of East Timor's onshore and offshore oil and gas resources, and the long-term management of its petroleum revenues.

"In this bidding round we are offering petroleum companies access to frontier opportunities while working with a government that has a proven track record in administering large-scale petroleum development," Alkatiri said.

The bidding round follows the first comprehensive seismic survey of the relevant areas.

Alkatiri noted the results of the 6,600-kilometer survey and other relevant geological data are now available to the petroleum industry.

Some of the findings will also be presented during an international roadshow to be held in September in Singapore, London, Calgary and Houston.

Alkatiri is scheduled to open the roadshow in Singapore on Sept. 2.

"Interpretation of the first independent 2D seismic survey is now nearing completion, and several undrilled potential prospects have been identified in the Timor-Leste offshore areas, between the Joint Petroleum Development Area (it shares with Australia) and the southern coastline of Timor-Leste," Alkatiri said.

The areas which will be available for licensing have a number of potential petroleum systems present, and are surrounded by significant petroleum discoveries and occurrences on all sides, he said.

"My government has been advised that the whole area looks attractive and appears to be a prospective hydrocarbon province," said Alkatiri, pledging the bidding round will be a "competitive, transparent and accountable" process.

Following the prime minister's official opening of the roadshow in Singapore, a government delegation and a team from the Timor Sea Designated Authority will make presentations in London on Sept. 6, Calgary on Sept. 9, and Houston on Sept. 13.

The authority is also releasing new acreage in the Joint Petroleum Development Area in the Timor Sea, which is managed jointly with the Australian government.

Alkatiri said the deadline for bids for the East Timor round is the end of the first quarter 2006, with awards to be made in the second quarter.

East Timor originally hoped to host a roadshow for its maiden exploration licensing round earlier this year.

However, the promotion was delayed to give the country's parliament time to pass legislation that finalizes the legal framework for an oil and gas industry.

Copyright (c) 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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