Colombia Auctions Rights to Seek, Produce Oil on 22 Areas

BOGOTA (Dow Jones Newswires), November 11, 2008

The Colombian oil licensing agency auctioned rights to seek and produce oil or gas in 22 areas across the country.

The ANH, as the agency is known, picked ten companies to operate 22 out of the 43 areas auctioned, a statement said.

Canada-based Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp. won the rights to explore six areas, while state-controlled Ecopetrol SA won the rights to seek oil and gas in four blocks.

The local unit of France's Etablissements Maurel et Prom SA, Argentina's Pluspetrol SA, and South Korea's SK Energy Co. Ltd. won the rights to explore two blocks each.

Privately-owned Tecpetrol SA won the rights over three blocks, while Indian Oil and Natural Gas Corp.'s overseas unit ONGC Videsh Ltd. and Lewis Energy won a block each.

The government and companies will sign the contracts in the coming weeks. The government will first check that the companies selected fulfill all the requirements.

The companies offered to pay a contribution of between 2% and 47% on top of taxes, royalties and a new tax on high prices created recently.

Colombia is currently Latin America's fifth-largest oil exporter, but if domestic consumption keeps growing at the same pace and there's no significant new discovery, it will become a net importer, probably in 2016, according to government estimates.

Oil companies produced on average 612,000 barrels per day in the first nine months of this year.

To avoid becoming an oil importer, Colombia has lured companies to invest in exploration. In the past few years, the oil licensing agency ANH has signed contracts with dozens of oil companies.

Copyright (c) 2008 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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