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Colombia opens 59 blocks for bids in next oil auction

BOGOTA, Sept 18 (Reuters) - Colombia will have 59 blocks on offer in its next round of oil bidding, the national hydrocarbons agency (ANH) said on Wednesday, as the country steps up efforts to encourage more investment in the sector.

The ANH debuted the blocks, which are located throughout the Andean country but concentrated near its northern Caribbean coast and in its eastern plains, during a private event with oil companies on Tuesday, it said in a statement.

Six companies won 11 contracts in an oil round earlier this year, which the ANH said would generate some $500 million in investment.

“The offer of blocks in this second auction is aimed towards ensuring energy self-sufficiency in Colombia, increasing reserves and generating critical resources to maintain fiscal and trade balances,” the statement said.

Five of the blocks are off-shore and 27 of them are areas which have been requested by already pre-qualified companies, the first time that mechanism has been available, the ANH said.

Nine of the areas were included in the previous auction, it added, while thirteen of the new areas have gas production potential.

A final list of qualified bidders will be published on Oct. 21, the statement added, and companies will deposit initial offers on Oct. 31.

Hocol SA, Parex Resources Inc, Ecopetrol, Gran Tierra Energy Inc, Frontera Energy Corp and GeoPark Ltd all won at least one contract in the previous oil round.

Colombia produces an average of about 860,000 barrels of crude per day. Oil is its top export and source of foreign exchange. (Reporting by Julia Symmes Cobb, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)