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Source: Reuters

Majors look into first Afghan oil, gas bidding round

Published: 17 May 2009 17:31:56 PST

SINGAPORE, May 15 - Afghanistan's first oil and gas bidding round has attracted the interest of some major oil companies, the country's minister of mines said on Friday.

Afghanistan launched in March its first-ever upstream round, offering two gas and one oil blocks in the north of the country, on the border with Turkmenistan, Central Asia's biggest natural gas producer.

"We met different companies in different cities. We saw representatives from Total <TOTF.PA>, Shell <RDSa.L>, BP <BP.L>, ExxonMobil <XOM.N>, ConocoPhillips <COP.N>," minister of mines, Ibrahim Adel told Reuters on the sidelines of a final roadshow that attracted very few Asian players.

While the turnout was big in London, Houston and Dubai, where the largest oil and gas companies have large teams, only a handful of companies attended the Singapore event.

"This may be because Singapore is more the place for independent companies. And these firms are not really out looking these days," a consultant who was attending the roadshow said.

Officials from China's Sinochem, Malaysia's heavyweight Petronas, which has interests in nearby Turkmenistan, and small independent Australia-based Twinza Oil, turned up at Singapore the roadshow.

Data for the three blocks on offer is now available for purchase with prequalification applications closing on June 15, and bids are due on Sept. 15, with awards to be announced on Oct. 9 at the latest.

Wells have been drilled on the three blocks, with output at one of the oilfields at 12,000-13,000 barrels per day (bpd) when it was in production for a short six-month period.

Proven reserves stand at 64.4 million barrels for the Kashkari oil block, with possible reserves seen at a higher 143.8 million barrels.

Juma's gas block has proven reserves of 33 billion cubic metres (bcm) and Jangalikalan has more than 19 bcm.

But security and the lack of data could hinder interest, participants said.

"It is interesting but we need to see more data. Data is the key," said one of the officials attending the roadshow.

Afghanistan currently produces about half a bcm of gas a year, against up to 5 bcm during the Soviet era. Illegal oil production-which was brought to an end in 2006, ran at 15,000 tons a year.

Analysts said investment in the country's unproven hydrocarbons market made little economic sense near term, but long-term investors could see rewards if and when a proposed regional pipeline came on line.

Last April Turkmenistan, Afghanistan, Pakistan and India signed an agreement for a $7.6 billion pipeline to bring natural gas south from the Caspian to the Arabian Sea.

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