Greece picks PGS for offshore oil, gas tests
* PGS to conduct offshore seismic tests by end-2012
* To search in Ionian Sea, waters south of Crete
* Call for drilling bids to follow mid-2014
ATHENS, Sept 5 (Reuters) - Greece selected Norway's Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS) to carry out offshore seismic tests in the country's south and west, the government said on Wednesday, paving the way for the launch of an oil and gas drilling bidding round in 2014.
Oslo-based PGS will send a ship to the Ionian Sea and off the southern island of Crete to gather the data by the end of the year, Energy Minister Evangelos Livieratos told lawmakers. Seven other companies had sought the business.
The value of the contract was not disclosed.
Based on the results, Greece plans to call a bidding round for oil and gas exploration in the area in mid-2014.
"There are serious prospects (for a find)," the minister told a parliamentary committee. The tests will be conducted in a maritime zone between 100 and 400 kilometres wide, he added.
PGS had carried out similar tests in Cyprus, where a huge offshore gas find encouraged Athens to step up its own search. Cash-strapped Greece imports almost all its oil and natural gas, spending annually about 5 percent of its GDP on the purchases.
Almost 200 fruitless test wells have been drilled in various parts of the country in the past century, the most recent about 12 years ago. But most of the tests were badly managed or carried out at the wrong locations, Greek officials said.
In July, Greece called a bidding round for three oil and gas offshore and onshore explorations in the western part of the country. The government hopes there are about 280 million barrels of oil there.
It received bids from companies such as Hellenic Petroleum , UK-based Chariot Oil and Gas, as well as Schlumberger, the world's biggest oil services company by market value, which teamed up with local partner Energean Oil and Gas. The government is expected to announce the winning bidders soon.
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