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Cnooc invites bids from foreigners on drilling blocks

APRIL 17, 2009

China National Offshore Oil Corp. is offering 17 oil and natural-gas blocks in the South China Sea to foreign companies in an international tender.

The exploration blocks cover 42,021 square kilometers and include 13 blocks in the eastern part of the South China Sea and four in the western part, the company said.

Last April, Cnooc offered 17 exploration blocks in the South China Sea, covering 45,817 square km.

Cnooc is the sole Chinese energy company authorized to cooperate with foreign companies in the exploration of domestic offshore blocks and can take a 51% stake in the event of a commercial discovery at such blocks. But the distinction is beginning to erode and Cnooc’s domestic rivals China National Petroleum Corp. and China Petrochemical Corp. are also gearing up for offshore partnerships with foreign firms.

Chinese oil giants are also increasingly looking to foreign ventures. Royal Dutch Shell PLC said this week that it is in talks with Chinese oil companies about jointly bidding for an Iraqi oil field.

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