Mendoza to Launch E&P Tender for 15 Blocks in May

Argentina's Mendoza province plans to launch its 2006 oil and gas exploration bid round on April 5 by providing details of the 15 blocks it plans to tender in May, the provincial government said in a statement.

The bidding rules for the blocks stipulate local firms will be given priority and companies winning the tenders must contract 75% of manual labor locally, the statement said.

The blocks Mendoza plans to tender are as follows: Media Agua, Rio Desaguadero, Nacunan, San Rafael, Pampa del Tigre, General Alvear, La Mora, Las Lenas, Cerro Manzano, Sierra del Nevado, Banado del Atuel, Cuenca Neuquina I, Cuenca Neuquina II, Cuenca Neuquina III and Cuenca Neuquina IV.

Canadian oil company Petro Andina is one of the companies interested in the blocks and has made some preliminary selections of attractive blocks, Petro Andina accounting manager Daniel Kokogian told BNamericas.

Kokogian said almost all the blocks have undergone 2D seismic studies and at least one evaluated with 3D seismic, adding that the province may stagger the tenders for the blocks rather than offer them all at once.

Petro Andina is the operator of the CNQ7A block in Mendoza and shares an equal stake with Spanish oil major Repsol YPF (NYSE: REP). The company also has a 47.5% share of the CNQ7 block, although it is operated by Brazil's federal energy company Petrobras (NYSE: PBR), which has a 22.5% share. Repsol YPF owns the remainder of the block.

Another company that could be interested in the blocks is US oil company Apache (NYSE: APA), which recently agreed to purchase US oil company Pioneer's Argentine assets.

Apache spokesperson Anthony Lentini said the company plans to invest some US$100mn in Argentina this year, "focusing on areas where the company already has a presence."

Apache operates two blocks with a 100% interest and holds smaller interests in three non-operated blocks in Argentina's Neuquen basin, part of which lies in Mendoza province, according to the company website.

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