* Project was due to start Q1, new date to be set in 6 weeks
* Angola to seek bids for 15 onshore oil exploration blocks
* Oil output up 4.5 pct in 2012, net profit drop not
LUANDA, Feb 25 Angola has delayed plans to begin
exporting liquefied natural gas (LNG) because of technical
problems at its $10 billion plant, a senior executive at state
oil firm Sonangol said on Monday.
Sonangol board member Baptista Sumbe told the company's
annual briefing a new start date for the project, called Angola
LNG, will be announced in six weeks once repairs have been
Angola was initially expected to start exporting LNG in the
first quarter of 2012, but the date was pushed back to the first
quarter of this year after several delays..
"To our regret, the project has been delayed. In October, we
faced another technical problem," Sumbe said.
"The repairs are being carried out now, and as soon as they
are done, within five to six weeks, we will be able to announce
publicly when the project can start," he added.
The 5.2 million tonnes-per-year project is led by Sonangol,
which has a 22.8 percent stake and Chevron, which holds
36.4 percent. Eni, Total and BP each
hold a stake of 13.6 percent.
Sonangol is the main player in the oil sector in Angola,
Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria. Besides
holding stakes in all of Angola's exploration blocks, it is also
the national concessionaire in charge of awarding licences.
Board member Sebastiao Martins confirmed that the company
plans to hold a new bidding round for licenses to explore for
oil in the pre-salt layer, this time for 15 onshore blocks in
the Kwanza and Basin.
Analysts and investors believe drilling thousands of metres
through blocks known as pre-salt, could match huge discoveries
made off the Brazilian coast in similar rock formations.
Sonangol expects to get the go-ahead from the government to
launch the bidding process this year, Martins added.
Angola offered offshore exploration rights in the pre-salt
layer to seven oil majors including Total, BP and U.S. firm
Cobalt in 2011.
Chief Executive Francisco Lemos Jose Maria said Angola's
crude production rose 4.5 percent to 1.73 million barrels per
day (mbpd) last year from 1.66 mbpd in 2011, a year marked by
technical problems and maintenance at oil fields.
The CEO added that net profit in 2012 came in at $1.24
billion, but did not explain a drop from the previous year, when
the company reported net profit of $3.3 billion.