During March 2018 there were 27 current bid rounds ongoing offering over one million square kilometres of E&P acreage worldwide.
The United States Gulf of Mexico Lease Sale 250 on 21 March dominated with over 115,000 sq km offered on the shelf (<200m water depth) and over 115,000 sq km in deeper water. The sale resulted in 159 bids on 148 tracts, with a total of US$ 124.7 million high bids and US$ 139.1 million total bids. Of the 33 companies that participated, 24 gained new acreage. On 27 March, the Comision Nacional de Hidrocarburos (CNH) took bids on 35 exploration and extraction blocks in Mexico’s Round 3.1. with 16 awards made covering 11,000 sq km. Elsewhere Indonesia, Australia, Brazil and Greenland were all offering 100,000 sq km or more with the latter two countries including the most frontier acreage in ANP Round 15, the 4th Production Sharing Round 2018 and the Davis Strait 2018 round.
In addition to Lease Sale 250, March 2018 saw the launch of three other new licensing rounds. At the start of the month the Queensland Government offered 10 areas for competitive bidding covering over 17,000 sq km in the Eromanga and Surat Basins. Three areas, PLR201718-2-1 (5,266 sq km) in the Eromanga plus PLR201718-2-4 (457 sq km) and PLR201718-2-5 (393 sq km) in the Surat are offered under the rule of strict Australia-only sale conditions where gas produced from this area is to be supplied exclusively to the domestic market under the Australian market supply condition. The remaining seven areas, two in the Eromanga and five in the Surat do not carry the restrictions. The tender closes on 31 May 2018.
Also at the start of March the Comision Nacional de Hidrocarburos (CNH) approved the issuing of a call for bids for nine onshore blocks in Mexico’s little explored shale play. The nine blocks are located in the Burgos Basin in Tamaulipas state and cover a total of 2,704 sq km, while the average size of each tract is about 300 sq km. Round 3.3 includes the unconventional Cefiro Field in Area 2. Bidding will take place in Mexico City on 5 September 2018.
On 13 March 2018, state-run Petroamazonas, with the support of the national government, hosted a presentation to launch Ecuador’s Ronda Oil & Gas 2018 auction. Four onshore fields in the Oriente-Maranon and one offshore in the Progreso Basin were offered and an investment estimated at US$ 755 million is envisaged for these five field contracts offered under the new specific services contract model. The onshore fields will be awarded under a 10-year oil contract for integrated services and the offshore Amistad gas field under an eight-year gas contract for integrated services, with financing from the contractor from June 2018. The deadline for ‘Letters of Interest’ to be received by Petroamazonas for companies previously invited by the company to partake in Ronda Oil & Gas 2018 was 4pm on 27 March 2018.
In addition to current bid rounds over 100 future bid rounds are being tracked worldwide with 53 identified as being planned or potential through the remainder of 2018.
The end of March and early April 2018 is likely to see the launch of bid rounds in Trinidad & Tobago (T&T), Ecuador and Sri Lanka. T&T’s Competitive Bid Round will offer six shallow water blocks to be tendered alongside two onshore blocks. These are NCMA 2, NCMA 3, Block 1 (b) (off the west coast), Lower Reverse ‘L’ in the south east on the border with Venezuela and Block 4(c) and Block U(c) to the east of Trinidad. The onshore blocks to be offered are yet to announced; the government hasn’t offered any onshore acreage in the last five years.
Ecuador’s Ronda Intracampos covers eight blocks in the north east of the country in the Oriente-Maranon Basin, under a new contract model and is due to be launched soon. According to the provisional timetable, offers are to be received by 10 July 2018. A data room will be opened for companies participating in the round and will be open until around late June 2018. Roadshows will be held in Houston on 2 April 2018 and in Calgary on 9 April 2018. Awards are expected on 21 August 2018 and contracts to be signed on 22 August 2018.Blocks will be offered under a ‘Participation’ contract which is a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) type model rather than the service contract model currently employed in Ecuador. Bids will be evaluated primarily on the production sharing commitment offered to the government (government share of production before taxes), but also on the total exploration investment committed (annual work commitment plans). In total, around 47 companies, including Russia’s state-owned Zarubezhneft, supermajor Royal Dutch Shell and Canada’s Gran Tierra Energy, have reportedly expressed interest in Ecuador’s upcoming bid rounds.
Sri Lanka’s Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat (PRDS) is expected to launch bidding on Block M2 (Barracuda & Dorado Fields) covering an area of 2,924 sq km offshore Mannar Basin in late March or early April 2018. The block is being re-tendered for a three-year exploration period following an initial offering in 2017 with commitments to include the drilling of one appraisal well. Depending on launch date bids are likely to be submitted by end June with notification of the winner expected in late August 2018.
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