Trinidad and Tobago nears awards for onshore oil and gas exploration

<html xmlns=""><head><title>UPDATE 1-Trinidad and Tobago nears awards for onshore oil and gas exploration</title></head><body>

Adds comments from Trinity and Touchstone

By Curtis Williams

May 29 (Reuters) -The Trinidad and Tobago government accepted bid recommendations for six of eight onshore oil and gas exploration blocks, people close to the matter said on Sunday, setting the stage for awards to be disclosed as soon as this week.

The Caribbean nation has pushed to expand exploration to counter declines in its oil and gas production. Gas and petrochemicals provide a large part of its export revenue.

A decision to award licenses was taken by the country's cabinet on Thursday on the recommendation of Trinidad and Tobago Energy Minister Stuart Young, the people said. Young is scheduled to address an international energy conference in Miami on Tuesday.

Young did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Trinidad and Tobago's A&V Oil and Gas Ltd was recommended for the St. Mary’s block.

Touchstone Exploration Inc TXP.TO wasrecommended for the Cipero block, Eco Oil and Gas Solutions for the Tulsa block, and Challenger Energy received for the Guayaguayare block, the people said.

Challenger did not reply to a request for comment.

"If what is reported is true, Touchstone is happy that we got the Cipero block because that was our number one," said Paul Baay, Touchstone's chief executive.

The Aripero Block will go to Nabi Construction (Trinidad and Tobago) Ltd, while the Buenos Aires block is to be awarded to Trinity Exploration & Production Plc, the people said.

"We are not in a position to comment until any of the bid round awards are confirmed and announced by the Ministry,” Trinity finance chief Julian Kennedy said. Nabi and Eco could not be reached for comment.

The winning bids were selected based on their willingness to conduct seismic studies and the proposed numberof wells. Some winners also agreed to pay signing bonuses, the people said.

The energy ministry expects to pursue negotiations with companies that bid on the two unawarded blocks to gauge whether they might improve their offers, cabinet sources told Reuters.

Reporting by Curtis Williams in Houston; editing by Diane Craft and Nick Zieminski


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