Subject: RT - East Timor oil acreage offering delayed to 2006

East Timor oil acreage offering delayed to 2006

DARWIN, Reuters, 7 June 2005: Tiny East Timor expects to open bidding for its maiden oil and gas blocks in the first quarter of next year, a senior government official said yesterday, much later than expected.

East Timor, one of Asia's poorest nations and which has vowed to use oil and gas money to help ease poverty, said a string of companies including Malaysia's Petronas and Australia's biggest independent oil and gas producer Woodside Petroleum Ltd had expressed informal interest.

"We are offering (fiscal) terms to investors which are attractive. The regime is designed to be increasingly flexible and adaptive," Manuel de Lemos, acting director Timor Sea Office, Office of the Prime Minister, told an oil and gas conference in Darwin, northern Australia.

He said the country could award exploration licences by the second quarter.

He did not say why the offering would occur in 2006 instead of this year, as officials had told Reuters in February.

De Lemos said he hoped all legislation governing oil and gas exploration would go before the young country's parliament by the middle of the month with approval expected by mid-July. The new laws were previously expected to have been passed late last year.

He said Norway's Statoil, Kuwait's international upstream investment firm Kufpec and PetroChina had also expressed interest.

"We have dozens of oil seeps in Timor Leste...the area is almost identical to what is found in the North West Shelf," Australia's biggest resource development, he said.

There was little exploration of East Timor's hydrocarbon potential during Indonesia's 24-year military rule, which ended in 2002, but several large gas fields have been found in the sea that separates East Timor and Australia.


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