RIO DE JANIERO—Lower commodity prices, domestic political turbulence and a recession do not seem to have deterred some of the world’s largest oil companies from wanting to participate in Brazil’s 14th licensing round.

So far, 34 oil companies from 11 countries have applied to place bids for the round and 14 oil companies have been cleared to participate, according to Brazil’s oil regulator ANP. This list of approved companies is expected to grow as the ANP’s special licensing committee will meet again to continue the qualifying process for more companies that completed the process to participate.

Scheduled for September, the round will offer 287 blocks in the offshore basins of Sergipe-Alagoas, Espírito Santo, Campos, Santos and Pelotas and the onshore basins of Parnaíba, Paraná, Potiguar, Recôncavo, Sergipe-Alagoas and Espírito Santo. Combined, the available acreage totals about 122,622 sq km (47,345 sq miles).

The number of companies wanting to participate in the 14th licensing round is similar to that of the 13th licensing round in 2015. That year the round attracted interest from 39 companies.

The challenge now is to have a better outcome.

Brazil’s 13th licensing round was quite disappointing with only 37 of 266 blocks awarded, or 14%. It was the worst result in a decade for Brazil.

The result likely factored into the Brazilian government’s move to implement a more business-friendly regulatory framework—creating a licensing rounds calendar and more flexible local content rules—with hopes of sparking more E&P activity, mainly in the Santos Basin.

The efforts appear to be paying off.

On Aug. 8, Royal Dutch Shell Brasil CEO André Araújo said he is happy with the regulatory changes for Brazil’s oil sector. Currently, the company is the second-largest participant, trailing Brazil’s state-owned Petrobras. In an interview with the Financial Times in November, Royal Dutch Shell CEO Ben van Beurden said that the major aims to expand its presence in Brazil.

Although Shell Brazil is among the companies that were approved to participate in the upcoming licensing round, Araújo did not want to reveal the company’s intentions for the round.

“We are looking at all the areas [to be offered]. We begin with technical evaluation. The commercial evaluation comes later, and we rank what we call best projects in Brazil with the other investment options around the world to [compare] attractiveness,” Araújo said during an event in Rio de Janeiro.

Spanish giant Repsol Exploración has also confirmed its interest in participating in the upcoming round for exploratory oil and gas blocks in partnership with other bidders, according to the ANP, which added the operator is targeting Santos Basin blocks.

Besides Shell and Repsol other majors also showed interest in participating. These include Total, BP and ExxonMobil Corp.

Brazil, oil and gas, licensing round, ANP, Shell, Repsol, Santos Basin

The round is also attracting companies new to Brazil. The German Deutsche Erdoel AG DEA is one of them. In June, the company opened an office in Rio de Janeiro to be closer to opportunities in the upcoming licensing rounds and to analyze farm-in opportunities within existing licenses in Brazil.

“DEA’s aim is to establish itself as an operator in Brazil. Our extensive experience and our technical expertise both in offshore and onshore projects enable us also to successfully tackle large-scale projects,” Christoph Schlichter, general manager for DEA Brazil, said in an official statement.

In July, DEA signed an agreement with the Australian oil company Karoon, which won its five licenses during ANP´s 9th round in 2007. According to the agreement, both companies will evaluate jointly bidding for assets. As part of the arrangement, Karoon said it had granted DEA an exclusive option to buy up to 50% interest in five exploration blocks in the Santos Basin, off the coast of the state of Sao Paulo.

The list of 14 approved companies also includes Germany’s Wintershall and Malayasia’s Petronas. Operating in Brazil would be a first for both companies.