Uruguay Plannning Oil Auctions

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Uruguay, the South American country more known for its agriculture industry than mineral resources, is planning to auction 15 offshore oil exploration blocks next year in an effort to reduce its dependence on imported oil and natural gas. Motivated by the discovery of major oil deposits off the coast of Brazil, Uruguay has decided to see if it has oil reserves of its own.

The country tried offshore auctions in 2008, but that effort stalled due to the global financial crisis. The 15 offshore blocks being offered for exploration cover about 8,000 square kilometers (3,090 square miles) each, according to Reuters. Officials believe it could take four or five years before companies know for sure if hydrocarbons exists off the coast of Uruguay.

Uruguay imports some 900,000 barrels of crude every 25 days from Venezuela, Brazil, Nigeria, Ecuador, Russia and South Africa, according to Reuters.

Companies invited to participate in the auction include Portugal's Galp, Argentina's YPF, Royal Dutch Shell (RDS-A) and Total (TOT), Europe's largest and third-largest oil companies, respectively, and Petrobras (PBR), Brazil's state-run oil company.