* Russian, Chinese firms submit bids
* Four blocks fail to attract bidders
By Fumbuka Ng'wanakilala
DAR ES SALAAM, May 21 Tanzania, a hotspot for
natural gas exploration, has received five bids for just half of
the eight oil and gas blocks it offered in its latest bidding
round, its upstream regulator said on Wednesday.
Tanzania, which has made big discoveries of natural gas off
its southern coast, had offered seven deep-sea offshore blocks
and one block in Lake Tanganyika.
China's top offshore oil producer, CNOOC Ltd, and
Russia's state-run Gazprom were among companies that
submitted bids for the blocks on offer in the fourth round.
Statoil and ExxonMobil, which have made big
gas discoveries off Tanzania, have submitted a joint bid for one
of the offshore blocks.
"The evaluation process will start immediately and we will
announce winners of the bids as soon as possible within the
timeframe of the fourth licensing round," Yona Killagane,
managing director of the state-run Tanzania Petroleum
Development Corporation (TPDC), told Reuters.
Killagane did not say when the winners will be announced.
The licensing round closed on May 15.
CNOOC, a newcomer in Tanzania's rapidly-expanding oil and
gas industry, will battle with Statoil and ExxonMobil for
offshore block 4/3A, which covers 2,620.3 square kilometres.
Gazprom has applied for block 4/3B offshore Tanzania,
covering an area of 3,045 square kilometres.
Abu Dhabi state-owned investment fund Mubadala
has applied for offshore block 4/2A, which covers an area of
3,630 square kilometres, while another UAE firm, Ras Al Khaimah
Gas LLC, has submitted a bid for the Lake Tanganyika North
block, with a size of 9,670.2 square kilometres.
Four offshore blocks, 4/3B, 4/4A, 4/4B and 4/5B, did not
attract any bids, TPDC said.
Britain's BG Group and Ophir Energy, which
have been at the forefront of exploration in Tanzania, did not
submit any bids for the blocks on offer.
The deep sea offshore blocks are located in water depths of
2,000 to 3,000 metres adjacent to proven prospective blocks,
while the Lake Tanganyika North block is in a water depth of
1,500-metres along the east African rift system, the government
said in its bidding round announcement.
Tanzania has so far signed 25 production sharing agreements
(PSAs) with some 17 international energy companies, including BG
Group, Statoil, Brazil's Petrobras, Royal Dutch Shell, Exxon
Mobil and Mubadala Petroleum.
Winners of the latest bidding round would be subjected to
new PSA terms that experts said toughen some of the conditions
for energy firms seeking to explore and develop the east African
nation's big gas prospects.
Tanzania has 46.5 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of proven
natural gas reserves, up from 42.7 tcf previously, and expects
exploration off its southern coast will result in more finds.
(Editing by George Obulutsa, editing by David Evans)