January 23, 2013 / 12:15 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 1-Uganda to auction 13 blocks for oil exploration

* To offer the blocks after new oil bill is signed

* The bill was passed by parliament last month

* Country first struck commercial deposits in 2006

KAMPALA, Jan 23 (Reuters) - Uganda will auction 13 blocks for oil and gas exploration when the country’s president signs a new bill governing the petroleum sector into law, its junior energy minister said on Wednesday.

The east African nation’s parliament passed a petroleum law last month aimed at guaranteeing transparency in the oil sector, through a clear management structure.

“We are waiting for a Presidential assent to that law and then we will be ready to advertise for a new licensing round. We have 13 blocks that are currently not licensed which prospective bidders can apply for,” Peter Lokeris told Reuters.

Uganda struck commercial hydrocarbons in the Albertine rift basin near the border with the Democratic Republic of Congo in 2006.

A total of 87 wells have since been drilled, 76 of which have been found to contain hydrocarbon deposits. The country estimates total crude reserves at 3.5 billion barrels.

Total, Tullow Oil and China’s CNOOC , the three leading oil explorers in the country, are awaiting government approval of their field development plans.

Total says crude production is likely to commence in 2017 at the earliest.

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