Algeria to review terms of next license round-report

Algeria is considering changes to its next oil and gas licensing round after a previous round left some permits unsold, the Financial Times quoted Algeria's top energy official as saying on Thursday.

The financial terms on offer to international companies would be unchanged but "other elements of the bidding round" were under review, the newspaper quoted Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil as saying.

In the last licensing round in December, four foreign energy companies signed deals to explore for oil and gas but permits for 11 areas attracted no bids.

At the time, Khelil blamed the global economic slowdown for depressing oil companies' interest.

"We are talking with the companies to find out the reasons they did not bid," the newspaper quoted Khelil as saying.

"It could be that because in this bidding we asked for a minimum work programme, for seismic and for drilling. Maybe the work programme was too tough."

The December round was the first to be held under a 2006 law that gives Algerian state energy giant Sonatrach a minimum 51 percent share in every oil and gas exploration contract awarded to foreign companies.

Energy analysts have said the law is in line with measures adopted by some other oil and gas producing countries in the past few years, but that it might have to be reviewed in the light of the sharp fall in oil prices.

OPEC member Algeria has the world's 15th-biggest oil reserves and accounts for 20 percent of the European Union's gas imports.

Foreign companies involved in Algeria's energy sector include BP (BP.L), Amerada Hess (HES.N), Statoil (STL.OL), Andarko Petroleum Corp. (APC.N), Repsol (REP.MC), Total (TOTF.PA) and Gazprom (GAZP.MM).

[Source: Reuters, Algiers, 09Apr09]

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