Uruguay Could Modify Contracts to Allow Offshore Geological Studies

Uruguay's government will decide by early March whether to ratify a resolution that would modify service contracts to allow smaller private oil companies to partner with state oil firm Ancap for upstream activities, an Ancap source told BNamericas.

The current resolution 930 enacted in 1993 requires companies partnering with Ancap to show they have the capital and experience for offshore drilling, which is impossible for many smaller companies, the source said.

This new resolution would enable small companies to carry out geological studies, including seismic, and then sell the information to larger companies, such as Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR), which are capable of carrying out the drilling works.

So far all the companies that have submitted proposals to Ancap for exploration contracts have been small ones and so have been unable to fulfill the economic or technical requirements of the contracts.

Proposals for new contracts must include a percentage of production from the blocks in order to recoup investment, which varies from block to block depending on their productivity, the source said.

Ancap has already conducted 12,000km of 2D seismic data, which is available in a US$20,000 information package. In addition, 1,800km of 2D seismic data has been carried out by several other companies, the source said.

The area available for exploration on Uruguay's continental shelf is about 60,000 sq km of area at a depth of about 2,000m which will be parceled into 10,000 sq km blocks.

Ancap's board is also preparing to launch an international tender to explore a gas field discovered on its offshore continental platform last year, newspaper El Observador quoted Ancap VP Raúl Sendic as saying.

The field is 160km from the coast in an area covering 7,000 sq km. Russia's Lukoil Overseas is one of the interested companies, the paper reported.

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