Equatorial Guinea is set to unveil a fresh licensing round early next year as it closes in on awarding seven blocks under its current exercise.

“At the end of the year – probably in November – we will announce our 2020 licensing round, that will have the same format (as the 2019 Offshore Licensing Round),” Minister of Mines & Hydrocarbons Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima said at the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Thursday.

The current round offered a first exploration phase of two years plus a one-year extension option, with a drill-or-drop mechanism in the second phase.

“It probably will be a bit different because there will be some blocks that will have direct negotiation. But it will be with the same aim, starting in January and finishing in December,” the minister added of the impending new round.

Obiang had already said that the main aim of its current licensing round was to get operators on board who were willing to drill on acreage.

The ministry will on 26 November reveal the winners of seven blocks under the current round. In total 27 blocks were offered – 25 exploration tracts and two appraisal and development tracts – with 21 bids made on 14 blocks.

“Our main objective is that a lot of these PSCs we want to be signed by December,” Obiang said of the seven blocks that will be offered.

“Our objective is that by the time 2020 arrives, we are talking about the 2020 licensing round.”