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Energy

Ecuador to auction oil fields of companies it forced out

* Auction in April of “large and small” fields

* Several companies rejected new contracts and left Ecuador

* First oil field tender under Correa

QUITO, Dec 11 (Reuters) - Ecuador will auction several oil fields including those previously held by foreign companies forced out of the country last month for refusing to accept new contract terms, the natural resources minister said on Saturday.

It will be the first tender of oil real estate since left-wing President Rafael Correa took office in 2007 and began renegotiating terms for companies operating in the Andean nation.

Brazil's Petrobras PETR4.SA, China's CNPC and two smaller companies rejected new contracts and gave up their fields in November. Several others agreed to the terms, which end profit sharing in favor of service contracts designed to increase state income.

“In April we will release new blocks including areas left by companies that previously worked in the country,” Natural Resources Minister Wilson Pastor told reporters on Saturday.

U.S.-trained economist Correa has shaken investors with new rules for mining and oil extraction and a decision to default on $3.2 billion of debt in 2008.

Several left-leaning governments in South America, including Brazil and Venezuela, have also moved to increase the state’s share of oil revenue in recent years.

Correa says he wants to attract foreign investment in Ecuador and is just making sure the small Andean nation gets a fair deal.

“We are not trying to fight with multinational companies out of a misplaced sense of nationalism or to cause a reaction. This is about getting ourselves the maximum benefits with adequate and patriotic negotiations,” Correa said during the opening ceremony of a meeting of OPEC, of which Ecuador is the smallest member.

The area previously operated by Petrobras, Block 18, will not be included in the auctions since it produced 19,300 barrels per day and Ecuadorean law prohibits auctioning fields already in operation.

“There will be both and big fields,” Pastor said of the areas to go under the hammer next year.

Spain's Repsol REP.MC, Italy's Eni ENI.MI, a Chinese consortium and Chile's state oil company ENAP all agreed to the new contracts, which the government says will increase Ecuador's share of oil income to 80 percent of each barrel, from 70 percent previously.

The companies have agreed to invest a total of $1.2 billion to gradually increase production. (By Alexandra Valencia; Writing by Frank Jack Daniel; Editing by Maureen Bavdek)

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