New Mozambique gas concessions this year: official

MAPUTO - Global energy companies hungry for a slice of Mozambique's vast natural gas reserves should be able to bid for new concessions later this year, an official said on Wednesday.

"We believe this process will be announced in the second half of 2013," Carlos Zakarias, exploration manager at the National Petroleum Institute, Arsenio Mabote told over 600 delegates at an international gas summit.

The government has held off a fresh licensing round in order to first pass a revised petroleum law to deal with the challenges of its natural gas windfall.

The East African country has shot to prominence on international energy markets, after over 40 percent of global gas discoveries were made there last year.

Companies with concessions, like Texas-based Anadarko and Italy's ENI, have struck around 150 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas buried in sandstone deposits beneath the deep waters of the northern Rovuma Basin.

The government appears more cautious about giving out large concessions, after having awarded areas of up to 24,000 square kilometres in the past.

"Now the international trend is smaller and smaller blocks, not big blocks," Mozambique's deputy minister of Mineral Resources, Abdul Razak said.

Only half of the Rovuma basin's potential gas has so far been discovered and the basin could yield as much as 250 tcf, heard the conference which started on Wednesday.

Apart from Anadarko and ENI who have begun testing wells in Rovuma, Malaysia's Petronas and Norway's Statoil also have concession blocks there.

"I think we have thousands of wells in Rovuma...we still have virgin, frontier territory so a lot can be expected," Zakarias said.

Vast areas to the South and east of the basin on the border with the Comoros had not yet been licensed, he added.

The petroleum institute's head Arsenio Mabote told AFP that parts of Rovuma as well as the Zambezi delta in central Mozambique could be part of the next bidding round.

"There is an evaluation being done but we have all the options open," he said.

The government had decided to postpone the bidding process until parliament confirmed the revised legislation.