Panama will start a bid process before the end of this year, for exploration rights in new oil fields, said Energy Secretary Juan Manuel Urriola said Tuesday in a statement last week. Last month, Panama's National Energy Secretariat announced the discovery of 900 million barrels of crude oil in two basins on the Caribbean coast of eastern Panama, representing a potential contribution to the country's coffers of $15 billion over 20 years.
A geological study conducted by Venezuelan firm OTS found the deposits in the Garachine-Sambu and Bayano-Chucunaque-Atrato basins of Darien province, which borders Colombia.
The quality of the oil deposits has not yet been determined but Urriola estimated their commercial potential at some $15 billion in taxes and royalties, based on an estimated price of $100 per barrel over 20 years.
OTS recommended that in the bidding process the exploratory areas be divided into four geographical blocks per basin.
The company will submit a prospectus, which will enable the bidding process to start before the end of 2011. No date for the propectus has yet been announced.