Global players woo Sao Tome

CONOCOPHILLIPS, CHEVRON, PETROBRAS and Tullow Oil are among eight international players vying for new exploration blocks in waters off Sao Tome & Principe, according to the head of the West African island nation's state-run producer, ANP.

Sao Tome launched the bidding process for seven of its 19 exclusive oil blocks in March with bids due from oil companies in mid-September.

"These companies continue to express interest and are in the process of consulting seismic data," director of state-run ANP, Luis dos Prazeres, told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday. "We are confident that we will receive additional proposals by the end of the auction."

US companies Marathon and Murphy , as well as Germany's RWE and India's ONGC Videsh have also expressed interest, he said.

Sao Tome Prime Minister Joaquim Rafael Branco, along with ANP officials, met with oil executives in Houston in April to discuss terms for the blocks with an eye toward incorporating feedback into the eventual contracts.

Dos Prazeres told Reuters the meetings were "positive" but did not give details. "Everything will be decided on 15 September," he said.

Sao Tome's first oil licences were awarded in 2004 but development was delayed by a row with Nigeria over their shared maritime border. Sao Tome has since been in talks with fellow former Portuguese colony Angola over a possible partnership deal to tap into its oil reserves.

Aside from its exclusive oil blocks, Sao Tome and Nigeria share a joint development zone where exploration activity is ongoing but where commercially exploitable reserves have yet to be discovered.

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