Nigeria to Launch New Oil, Gas Licensing Round End-January

NEW DELHI, Jan 16, 2007 (Dow Jones Commodities News via Comtex)

Nigeria will launch a new exploration round at the end of this month, offering up to 60 oil and gas blocks, Nigerian Oil Minister Edmund Daukoru confirmed Tuesday.

"Roadshows will begin by February in London, Hong Kong and other places," he said, speaking in the margins of an energy conference in New Delhi.

Daukoru said Nigeria plans to offer between 50 and 60 blocks to prospective investors, which will be spread across "all terrains" including the "interior basin," but he didn't elaborate.

Daukoru said talks were underway between India's state-run NTPC Ltd. (532555.BY) and the Nigerian government on a deal involving a new power plant and Nigerian supplies of liquefied natural gas to India, but nothing on this had been finalized.

International investors have been waiting for months for Nigeria to launch the round, in which countries like India, China and South Korea are expected to be enthusiastic participants.

In December, ONGC Mittal Energy Ltd., or OMEL, a joint venture between India's Oil and Natural Gas Corp. (500312.BY) and London-based Mittal group said it expects to add a third oil and gas exploration and production block to the two that it already has in Nigeria.

China's CNOOC Ltd. (CEO) has be working to obtain preemptive rights to four blocks, as part of Chinese efforts to deepen involvement in Nigeria and bolster declining supplies of crude China receives from the West African country.

In January 2006, CNOOC Ltd. agreed to pay $2.27 billion, plus $424 million in expenses, to South Atlantic Petroleum Ltd. for a 45% working interest in the OML 130 offshore oil mining license, which mainly covers Nigeria's undeveloped Akpo field.

Two months later CNOOC Ltd. - China's largest offshore oil producer by output - bought a 35% working interest in a license to explore for oil offshore Nigeria for $60 million.

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