Nine oil companies bid for Uruguay offshore blocks

Thu Mar 29, 2012 7:00pm EDT

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* State energy firm says 19 offers presented

* Winning projects due to be announced Friday

MONTEVIDEO, March 29 (Reuters) - Nine energy companies have submitted 19 bids to explore for oil off the coast of energy-poor Uruguay, the state energy company said on Thursday.

The discovery of massive deep-water reserves off Brazil's Atlantic coast has encouraged neighboring Uruguay to look for energy resources along its own coastline in hopes of reducing its dependence on imports.

The foreign energy companies submitted a total of 19 bids for eight of the 15 blocks offered for exploration, said Raul Sendic, president of the state energy company Ancap.

"This is a really historic event, it points to an enormous amount of investment on the (continental) platform over the coming years," he said.

"The offers have focused on the areas closest to the Pelotas basin, which is the area near the Brazilian border," he added.

The bids were made by Britain's BP and the BG Group , France's Total's, Shell, Tullow Oil Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Consortiums made up of Spain's Cepsa, Murphy and Argentina's YPF also made offers.

Ancap is due to announce the results of the bidding round on Friday at 1500 GMT.

The state company imports some 900,000 barrels of crude every 25 days from Venezuela, Brazil, Nigeria, Ecuador, Russia and South Africa for refining locally.

Uruguay, a small country of some 3.4 million people, does not normally import refined fuels although a shutdown at its sole refinery and a drought have forced it to buy in diesel, fuel oil and gasoline.

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