| HOUSTON, April 30
HOUSTON, April 30 Argentina's Neuquen province
expects major global energy companies, including Royal Dutch
Shell, Chevron Corp and Exxon Mobil Corp
, to bid in a May auction of 11 oil blocks, its energy
minister said on Wednesday.
The exploration and development blocks include conventional
and unconventional oil and gas resources, most of them in the
vast Vaca Muerta shale formation, considered one of the world's
biggest shale deposits.
The results are expected for August.
"For unconventionals, the players will be the majors,"
Neuquen Energy Minister Guillermo Coco said in Houston on a road
show to attract foreign capital. "Chevron, Exxon, Shell have
shown interest in Vaca Muerta. They will compete for sure."
Companies interested in participating would have to form
joint ventures with the provincial oil company, Gas y Petroleo
de Neuquen (GyP), with 50-90 percent stakes, depending on the
block size and resources.
"We want to be the minority stakeholders in all the
unconventional projects and also be an important stakeholder in
conventional developments," Coco added.
According to Argentine law, it is possible for companies to
form consortia to develop conventional and unconventional
resources separately in a single block.
President Cristina Fernandez has given the provinces more
leeway to set up energy development programs, a reflection of
the huge resources needed to exploit the fields.
The Neuquen basin's crude output was 224,000 barrels per day
(bpd) in 2013, more than a third of the country's production,
and it also produced 2.2 billion cubic feet per day, according
to the regional government's figures.
The first bidding round in Neuquen was held from 2008 to
2009 and there have been another two rounds since. At least 57
blocks have been assigned and some of the properties given back
to GyP are being re-offered.
In the first round, the regional government did not demand
access bonds as will be the case in this round. Companies could
pay as much as $80 million to access mid-sized areas.
The crude produced in the new areas has to be sold to
refineries in Argentina through individual supply contracts, the
He expects that this will not be an issue, even though the
controlled internal gas price is the cause of frequent
complaints from operators working in the country.
U.S.-based Chevron has been the most active foreign oil
company in Vaca Muerta in partnership with Argentine state-run
company YPF SA.
(Reporting by Marianna Parraga; Editing by Terry Wade and Andre