RIO DE JANEIRO (Reuters) - A total of 17 companies have registered to take part in two rounds of bidding for licenses to explore pre-salt oil areas in Brazil, Oil and Gas Secretary Marcio Felix said on Thursday.
The auctions next month include some of the most promising oil blocks in the world. Pre-salt oil, referring to reserves found beneath a deep layer of undersea salt, has been said to be of high quality and commercial value.
The Brazilian government is rushing to award new exploration licenses as part of a broader program to attract private investment and spur economic growth.
Brazil’s oil and gas regulator ANP has said previously that 15 companies have expressed interest in the third round and 10 in the second, but it was not clear how many companies had pre-registered in total. All are major oil firms.
Through production sharing contracts, firms will be able to bid Oct. 27 on eight blocks in the Santos and Campos basins in the pre-salt area, where hydrocarbons are trapped under about 2,000 meters (6,600 ft) of salt beneath the ocean floor.
The fields are considered among Brazil’s most prized energy assets. Those already under production are showing above-average productivity.
Felix told reporters in Rio, after taking part in an industry seminar, that Brazil also plans to auction off in the first half of next year licenses to explore additional oil reserves in the so called Transfer of Rights area, currently operated by Petrobras.
The Brazilian state-controlled oil company has rights over 5 billion barrels of oil in the Transfer of Rights areas which are also located in the pre-salt layers. But Felix said the government estimates there are at least 10 billion barrels more in the region.
Reporting by Alexandra Alper; Writing by Marcelo Teixeira; Editing by Bernadette Baum