BOGOTA Dec 18 Colombia hopes to raise $2.6 billion dollars by auctioning more than 22 million hectares for oil exploration and production in 2014, the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) said.
The Colombian oil sector has attracted a large influx of foreign direct investment in the last decade. The auctions, which the ANH announced on Tuesday night, are part of Colombia's strategy to increase production and crude oil reserves.
"We want to motivate companies and entrepreneurs to keep betting on the search for oil in Colombia with competitive and transparent mechanisms that stimulate supply," said Mines and Energy Minister Amylkar Acosta.
Investments rose in part after a government military offensive forced the country's two main guerrilla groups to pull out of oil-rich zones, enabling more exploration.
The oil sector has boosted the growth of Colombia's economy and foreign currency earnings after output fell over many years.
The five areas to be auctioned include discovered but not yet developed reserves, methane gas in coal deposits, offshore areas and conventional and non-conventional areas, according to Javier Betancourt, head of the ANH.
The auctions will be launched in February 2014 and the areas will be assigned starting at the end of July.
Colombia, Latin America's fourth biggest oil producer after Venezuela, Mexico and Brazil, allocated 49 blocks to 37 local and foreign companies last year.
The country, which has oil reserves of about 2.38 billion barrels, currently produces around 1 million barrels a day.