Equatorial Guinea will this week lift the lid on which blocks it is talking with potential suitors about for its current acreage offering, but the majority of tracts look set to be overlooked.

The country earlier this year launched an offshore licensing round comprising 24 exploration licences and two blocks, EG-27 and EG-23, for appraisal and development.

Speaking on the sidelines of the Africa Oil Week conference in Cape Town on Wednesday, Minister of Mines & Hydrocarbons Gabriel Obiang Lima said he will on Thursday reveal the identity of blocks that are currently under discussion with interested parties.

“We had a total of 53 companies going to our data and showing some interest. Around 25 visited our data room. There were 13 bids for blocks and, after doing all the selection, we have a number of seven to eight blocks that we are seriously looking at to be able to be selected,” Obiang said.

The minister said he will not as yet reveal the names of companies with which the government is discussing the tracts. This will be revealed later this month when blocks are awarded – between 26 and 27 November.

The exploration blocks up for grabs include EG-3, 4, 5, 8, 9, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 19, 22, 23, 25, 26, 28 (Corisco Deep), 29, 30 off the island of Bioko and the coastal Rio Muni enclave, and the four blocks EG-A1, A2, A3 & A4 surrounding the island of Annobon.

EG-23 contains the Estaurolita gas discovery and lies directly northwest of Marathon Oil’s Alba gas-condensate field and adjacent to the maritime boundary with Nigeria.

EG-27 is the renamed Block R, where former UK independent Ophir Energy saw its plans for the Fortuna floating liquefied natural gas development fall through.

Obiang also said that the government will move forward on discussions involving ExxonMobil’s planned sale of its 71% interest in the Zafiro field. The US supermajor was said to be looking to sell to French-run Trident Energy.

However, Obiang said companies will now be invited into a data room to look at this asset.

“We are having a discussion jointly with ExxonMobil. Operations are continuing and we are continuing according to our plan of development,” he said.

“We are going to be opening a data room in which different parties interesting in looking at the Zafiro will be invited – there is not going to be any more selecting of companies.”

Obiang also said that next year the ministry will unveil a “major development” in the Punta Europa area, without disclosing more information. The ministry will hold a technical commitment meeting with operators in Houston in December, one subject of which will be this development.

The minister also vowed that “2020 is going to be the investment year in Equatorial Guinea”, putting operators in the country on warning that they need to invest in drilling on their blocks.

“We are not going to kick anybody out of country,” he said, although reiterating that a greater commitment to investment is needed.

“For the upstream, you need to keep drilling,” he said.

“We are going to be very frank with those companies: you are producing, but you are not investing… Either you invest or you drop, because we are not going to have you sitting there, hibernating, doing nothing, because we need your money, we need your investment.

“The country is invested, so if you are not going to (do the investment), it is better that you move aside and you bring in other players that are willing to do the investment.”