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By Petar Komnenic
PODGORICA, May 15 (Reuters) - Three international oil and gas consortia filed bids for oil exploration and drilling rights off the southern Adriatic coast of Montenegro, Economy Minister Vladimir Kavaric said on Thursday.
The consortia are: U.S.-based Marathon Oil Corporation and Austrian energy firm OMV, Italy's Eni and Russian No. 2 gas firm Novatek, as well as UK-based Mediterranean Oil&Gas Plc and Greek Energean Oil&Gas, Kavaric said.
He said the ministry plans to pick the best bid in autumn and pass the choice to parliament for approval. The contract could be wrapped up by the end of 2014, Kavaric added.
The tender which closed on Thursday offered the exploration of 13 blocks, covering an area of 3,000 square kilometres. The government said concessions at locations that prove promising will be awarded for a period of 30 years.
The small Balkan country, which became independent in 2006, has no oil production but initial data suggests the nation might one day have enough resources to cover its oil and gas demand.
"The first phase of the process has been completed successfully," said Kavaric.
The need for new energy sources is acute across the Balkans, a region that has lacked investment in capacity for nearly two decades due to war and political turmoil.
Writing by Maja Zuvela; Editing by David Evans