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China's Cnooc, Russia's Gazprom Eye Tanzania Oil and Gas Blocks

By Nicholas Bariyo China's top offshore oil producer, Cnooc Ltd., and Russia's state-owned Gazprom are front runners among international companies that have submitted bids to develop Tanzania's lucrative gas and oil blocks, officials said Thursday. Up to six companies have submitted bids for oil and gas blocks offered by state-owned Tanzania Petroleum Development Company in the latest round of bidding, which closed last week, TPDC said. Tanzania estimates it has recoverable gas reserves of more than 46 trillion cubic feet in total. "Currently, all bid documents are being evaluated," TPDC said. "Successful Bidders will be invited to commence negotiations for Production Sharing Agreements with the government and TPDC." Winners are likely to be announced over the next two months, said a TPDC official. Cnooc, which is already developing the kingfisher oil field in neighboring Uganda, will compete with Northway's Statoil and U.S.-based ExxonMobil Corp. for block 4/3A, off Tanzania's southern coast. Russia's Gazprom is the sole bidder for block 4/3B. Other companies that submitted bids include United Arab Emirates-based Mubadala and Ras Al Khaimah Gas LLC. Statoil and ExxonMobil have already made huge discoveries in Tanzania and are planning to build the first liquefied natural gas plant in the country, which could cost between $20 billion and $30 billion, according to company officials. Other companies with exploration rights in the country include the U.K.'s BG Group PLC, Aminex PLC and Ophir Energy PLC. The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that East Africa's coastal region holds up to 441 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. Write to Nicholas Bariyo at Subscribe to WSJ:

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