Petroamazonas to explore blocks that don't receive bids -Correa

Reuters

By Alexandra Valencia

QUITO, Dec 3 (Reuters) - Ecuador's state companyPetroamazonas will explore new oil blocks in the Amazon jungleif they fail to draw interest from foreign energy firms,President Rafael Correa said on Tuesday during a visit to theregion.

Last week, the government said it had received bids for justfour of 16 oil blocks that it estimates could hold a total of1.5 billion barrels of crude. A new auction for the blocks whichdid not receive offers is planned for next year.

"The policy will be that Petroamazonas explores the blocksthat aren't very interesting to the private and foreign oilcompanies," Correa told reporters in the Amazon city of Tena.

The government said last week that Spain's Repsol and China's Andes Petroleum made offers for three blocks in thearea, while Petroamazonas, with Chile's Enap and Belorusneft ofBelarus, will begin developing a fourth block.

The blocks are in the Amazon provinces of Pastaza and MoronaSantiago, near the Peruvian border and on the edge of Yasunipark, one of the world's most important ecological reserves.

The auction of the blocks has drawn heavy criticism fromindigenous communities that live immediately around the fields.

Correa said his socialist government needed more resourcesto fight poverty. "We must find more reserves to exploitresponsibly, in terms of the environment and society," he said.

Ecuador, the smallest member of OPEC, produces 520,000barrels of oil a day on average.

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