Vietnam launches licensing round for offshore oil, gas blocks

Vietnam Oil & Gas Group—aiming to boost declining oil and gas output and exports—has launched the 2011 licensing round for nine oil and gas blocks offshore southern Vietnam.

The round will include Blocks 43, 03, 10/11, 11-2/11, 05-3/11, 50 22/03, and 12/11 in the Nam Con Son, Phu Quoc, and Malay-Tho Chu basins. The round opened on Aug. 1 and will close on Jan. 5, 2012.

The blocks are farther south and southwest of the Spratly and Paracel islands in the South China Sea, and they also are outside the areas where China has been involved in territorial disputes with neighbors in the region.

The South China Sea is claimed in whole or part by half a dozen countries in the region, including China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Brunei, and Malaysia.

The licensing round coincides with reports that Neon Energy Ltd. is allowing several major oil firms additional time to study data on its oil and gas prospects on Blocks 105 and 120.

Officials of the company, which seeks to bring in a strategic partner ahead of drilling next year, said that more than a dozen firms have reviewed data provided by Neon and joint venture partner KrisEnergy Ltd.

Meanwhile, China has sent India a formal diplomatic representation of its official position on oil and gas exploration in Blocks 127 and 128, which lie in the Phu Khanh basin offshore central Vietnam.

Beijing told New Delhi that exploration of the blocks by India’s state-owned ONGC Videsh Ltd. would be illegal due to China's territorial claims over the area—a claim denied by India’s government.

“Sensitivities over exploration of outward areas of the Phu Khanh basin have been running high in recent months,” said IHS Global Insight analyst Tom Grieder, who added, “The warning by China is likely to give OVL pause for thought.”

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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