Oil companies begin bidding for blocks in Colombia auction
CARTAGENA, Colombia, July 23 (Reuters) - Oil companies were bidding on Wednesday for 95 oil areas Colombia is offering for exploration and production in an effort to raise output from around 1 million barrels per day and increase stagnant reserves.
Rights for the onshore, offshore and nonconventional or shale oil areas will be awarded to bidders who offer the largest share of production to the government or based on how much companies commit to invest in lesser-explored regions.
The government said earlier this year it hoped to attract $2.6 billion in investment into the oil sector through the so-called Colombia Round 2014. Colombia's last oil auction took place in 2012. The blocks on offer total more than 22 million hectares.
Officials from the National Hydrocarbons Agency (ANH) say the government expects to auction off around 40 percent of the blocks on offer on Wednesday. Contracts are expected to be signed with eligible bidders around mid-August.
Latin America's fourth-biggest oil producer has been anxious to raise its reserves which have stagnated at around seven years' production for several years and stood at 2.45 billion barrels by the end of 2013.
Colombia's state-run Ecopetrol is the Andean nation's largest oil company and Canada-listed Pacific Rubiales Energy Corp the largest private-sector producer. (Reporting by Peter Murphy; editing by Matthew Lewis)
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