Yemen invites foreign oil firms to bid for five blocks

DUBAI, Sept 16 Sun Sep 16, 2012 11:38am EDT

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DUBAI, Sept 16 (Reuters) - Yemen has invited international companies to bid for exploration and development rights in five oil blocks around the country as it gives top priority to building up its oil output and reserves, the oil minister said on Sunday.

State news agency Saba quoted the newly appointed oil and minerals minister, Ahmed Dares, as saying the auction aimed to attract foreign investment and increase exploration operations.

The blocks on offer are 6, 15, 84, 85 and 102, which are located in the al-Saba'ateen basin, the Say'un-Masila basin, and the basin of Mukalla-Sayhoot, Dares told Saba.

"Increasing oil production and reserves through expanding exploration blocks... is a top priority for Yemen at the moment," Saba quoted him as saying.

Yemen is a small producer with proven oil reserves of around 3 billion barrels as of Jan. 1, 2012, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).

Oil reserves and production are sourced from two areas, the Marib-Jawf basin in the north, and Say'un-Masila basin in the south. The government estimates the Masila basin holds about 84 percent of the total.

The impoverished country is struggling to tame insurgency and rebuild its economy after years of conflict. Political turbulence last year pushed oil output below 200,000 barrels per day.

Yemen's oil and gas exports have been repeatedly interrupted by attacks on pipelines by Islamist militants or disgruntled tribesmen since anti-government protests created a power vacuum in 2011. This has led to fuel shortages and slashed earnings. (Writing by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Anthony Barker)

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