RIO DE JANEIRO—Uruguay’s government said it will launch Round 3 in its quest for offshore bids in September. The quest for offshore activity poses a challenge for the small South American country located between Brazil and Argentina, mainly because there has never been a discovery offshore Uruguay.

But the Uruguayan continental margin is still underexplored. To date, only three exploratory wells have been drilled.

The main difference between the latest round round  and the upcoming round is the availability of data. This time, there are more than 42,000 sq km (16,216 sq miles) of 3-D seismic, more than 40,000 sq km (15,444 sq miles) of 2-D seismic, 3-D electromagnetism studies and geological reports that can be licensed from state-owned oil company ANCAP directly or from service companies that market data from Uruguay. That means the expected exploratory commitment is lower than in the past.

Uruguay Round 2, held on March 29, 2012, received 19 offers for eight of the 15 offshore blocks from nine oil companies: BG Group, BP, CEPSA, ExxonMobil, Murphy Oil, Shell, Total, Tullow Oil and YPF.

According to ANCAP, 17 areas will be offered in three offshore basins (Punta del Este, Pelotas and Oriental del Plata), with bathymetries ranging from 50 m to 4,000 m of water depth. Those areas will be divided into Type I, Type II and Type III, according to water depth. there will be different qualification requirements for oil companies for each type of the area. The required exploratory program for each area is being defined according to the prospectivity and available data.

The bidding round terms and contract model will be very similar to those used for the Round -2. Deadline for companies to submit qualification will be March 2018 and the submission of bids will take place in April 2018.

“We expect the participation of many oil companies interested in exploration of hydrocarbons in frontier basins. Uruguay Round 3 will be officially launched in Houston in September of this year, when Uruguay's government will present to the upstream industry the bidding round terms and contract model officially approved by the Executive Branch. This official announcement event will take place in Norris Conference Centers in Houston. Simultaneously, a data room will be open in Hotel Sorella, CityCentre Houston from Sept. 18 to Sept. 23,” ANCAP said in an official statement to Hart Energy..

Although the fields to be offered are described as a new frontier for E&P activities, a number of structural, stratigraphic and combined exploratory situations have been identified as very potential areas.

Direct and indirect hydrocarbon evidence does exist,includingfluid inclusions of light oil and gas, oil seeps and gas chimneys. The seismic data indicates an important potential for accumulation of hydrocarbons with diversity of stratigraphic and structural plays, various types of source rocks and reservoirs that include siliciclastics and carbonates.

ANCAP oil fields prospects have been matured through 3-D data analysis and they are considered drillable prospects, according to the company. It is estimated that four of those prospects has approximately 3 billion barrels of oil and 9 Tcf of gas.

“Considering that these four selected prospects are only an example of several other additional prospects identified in the offshore de Uruguay, this suggests a huge potential for this frontier area. Also, taking into consideration the difficult present situation of the upstream industry, the qualification requirements will be lower, to open the door for smaller offshore operators,” an ANCAP statement said.

To ANCAP E&P department, ultra-deep waters will require longer exploration period and higher cost recovery limits, which makes them even more attractive.

“We hope to attract companies with different ideas about our offshore basins and that have a long term vision and are courageous enough to conduct frontier exploration in a US$50 per barrel.”