Petrobras Sole Bidder in Bolivian Licensing Round

Brazil's state energy company Petrobras was the only bidder in Bolivia's latest oil licensing round, picking up the Irenda block in the south of Santa Cruz department, according to Oscar Mariaca, concessions manager at state-owned oil company YPFB.

Petrobras offered just US$200 over the minimum price of US$175,000 for the 25,000ha block, and committed to invest US$3.5mn over the first three years of the concession, Mariaca told BNamericas.

The two other blocks on offer, Sipotindi and Almendro, failed to draw any bids. "There wasn't a lot of interest," Mariaca said. "Until the natural gas export project is defined, there won't be much interest."

The news comes as YPFB president Raul Lema criticized the government for overlooking Bolivia's crude oil reserves, which he said would not last much more than four or five years at current production rates. "The government must implement a policy, through better incentives, to find oil reservoirs," local press quoted Lema as saying.

Bolivia's main oil potential lies in the north, mainly in the Santa Cruz, Beni and Pando departments, where there has been little exploration, he said. "Our objectives in the next few years must definitely be orientated towards discoveries of liquids reserves," Mariaca said. "In gas we are comparatively well off, we have sufficient reserves to meet internal and external commitments. The problem will be liquids: as consumption increases, we need to try to cover what we use."

Starting the natural gas export project would provide some relief, as the main production field is Margarita, which also contains substantial liquids reserves, he said. The next bidding round will start in March, when a data room will be opened in Santa Cruz to allow companies to nominate blocks, as determined by Bolivia's hydrocarbons law, Mariaca said.

Meanwhile, Petrobras' Bolivian unit said the country's current crude oil production of 35,000 barrels a day (b/d) is not enough to meet local refinery requirements. Petrobras Bolivia owns the EBR refining company, whose refineries can process up to 50,000b/d, and current expansion plans will boost this capacity to 60,000b/d, Petrobras Bolivia president Decio Oddone said. Higher domestic production would allow Bolivia to stop importing so much diesel, he said.

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