Sierra Leone awards eight offshore oil blocks

GENEVA Thu Jul 19, 2012 11:22am EDT

GENEVA (Reuters) - Sierra Leone has provisionally awarded contracts to 11 companies including U.S. firms Noble Energy and Chevron Sahara to explore for oil in eight offshore blocks, a government statement showed.

Oil exploration has been booming in West Africa following Tullow Oil's discovery of the Jubilee field in Ghana but it is still unclear whether nearby Sierra Leone, still recovering from a war that ended in 2002, has commercial quantities.

Chevron Sahara, Noble Energy and Odye together won two blocks and will join companies like Canada-based Talisman Energy and Russia's LUKOIL already present in the country.

The following companies were also awarded a stake in the offshore blocks: African Petroleum Corp, Kosmos, Elinilto Ltd, Signet Petroleum, Minexco, Masters Energy, Chevron Sahara, Noble Energy, Odye, GNBH Sierra Leone Exploration and Vadara Petroleum and Hydrocarbons.

The government said it received 59 applications for the blocks which formed part of the West African country's third bid round.

Some blocks were oversubscribed -- such as block SL 4A-10 awarded to African Petroleum Corporation and Kosmos -- and one block SL 10A-10 received no bids, it added.

The results follow the award of oil contracts in Niger and Kenya in the past few weeks.