* State energy firm says 19 offers presented
* Winning projects due to be announced Friday
MONTEVIDEO, March 29 Nine energy companies have
submitted 19 bids to explore for oil off the coast of
energy-poor Uruguay, the state energy company said on Thursday.
The discovery of massive deep-water reserves off Brazil's
Atlantic coast has encouraged neighboring Uruguay to look for
energy resources along its own coastline in hopes of reducing
its dependence on imports.
The foreign energy companies submitted a total of 19 bids
for eight of the 15 blocks offered for exploration, said Raul
Sendic, president of the state energy company Ancap.
"This is a really historic event, it points to an enormous
amount of investment on the (continental) platform over the
coming years," he said.
"The offers have focused on the areas closest to the Pelotas
basin, which is the area near the Brazilian border," he added.
The bids were made by Britain's BP and the BG Group
, France's Total's, Shell, Tullow Oil
Plc and Exxon Mobil Corp.
Consortiums made up of Spain's Cepsa, Murphy and Argentina's
YPF also made offers.
Ancap is due to announce the results of the bidding round on
Friday at 1500 GMT.
The state company imports some 900,000 barrels of crude
every 25 days from Venezuela, Brazil, Nigeria, Ecuador, Russia
and South Africa for refining locally.
Uruguay, a small country of some 3.4 million people, does
not normally import refined fuels although a shutdown at its
sole refinery and a drought have forced it to buy in diesel,
fuel oil and gasoline.