December 18, 2018 / 4:23 PM / 6 months ago

Colombia cancels 2 oil exploration auctions, to relaunch in 2019

BOGOTA, Dec 18 (Reuters) - Colombia has canceled two auctions of rights to explore for oil in dozens of areas of the Andean nation and plans to relaunch bidding early next year, the government said on Tuesday.

The Sinu-San Jacinto round of bidding on 15 blocks in northern Colombia was scrapped after interested companies withdrew, and a round known as the Permanent Competitive Procedure was canceled because of a judicial ruling, the National Hydrocarbons Agency said in a statement on its website.

It plans to relaunch bidding in February.

Colombia last held auctions in 2012 and 2014, when it awarded 76 blocks. The government subsequently held off further auctions because of low international oil prices.

Under the Permanent Competitive Procedure companies can apply for exploration in areas that have not been offered by the government, but a ruling by the Constitutional Court forced the government to define areas for the exploration and exploitation of hydrocarbons.

Colombia needs to boost foreign investment to revive its stagnant crude and gas production. The nation has 1.78 billion barrels of reserves, equivalent to about 5.7 years of consumption but wants to increase that to at least 10 years of consumption.

It produces some 860,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, half for export. The government expects to increase output to 900,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day this year.

In the past, Colombia used auctions in which it defined exploration blocks and assigned them every two or three years in a tender process in which the company that made the best economic offer was awarded them. If a block was not delivered it was waiting for a new tender

Reporting by Helen Murphy and Luis Jaime Acosta; Editing by Steve Orlofsky

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