Kazakhstan's third auction of exploration and development rights to oil and gas acreage has again attracted solely domestic interest, despite some blocks on offer being adjecent to the giant Chevon-led Tengiz oilfield development.

Of the 14 blocks offered last week via an online access bidding system administered by the Kazakh government, the largest bid was placed for the Atanat block in the nation's largest oil region of Atyrau.

HTS Exploration, which is headquartered in the country’s capital Nur-Sultan, committed to pay almost 636 million tenge ($1.5 million) for the block, according to data from the Kazakh Energy Ministry.

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HTS also won the Alashkazgan block, which lies in another of key Kazakh province, Aktyubinsk, for a commitment bid of almost 225 billion tenge.

The company is understood to be part of a group of several Atyrau-based contractors working in the oil and gas, energy and construction sectors. The Kazakh Association of Contractors (KazService) has attributed the group's ownership to the “Kaliyev family” of entrepreneurs.

The auction's second largest — 478 million tenge — was placed by an unknown operator in Kazakhstan, Enerplus, which is understood to have no affiliation to the US-based explorer of the same name.

Enerplus gained a licence for the Karashagyr block, which also lies near the Tengiz field.

According to KazService, just one company among dozens of independents and newcomers — Ertis Oil & Gas — has participated and won acreage in all three online auctions.

In the latest auction, Ertis committed to pay 51 million tenge for Priirtyshky, a large block located in the Pavlodar region in north-eastern Kazakhstan.

The acreage covers more than 3600 square kilometres near the Irtysh River.

The Irtysh crosses East and West Siberia in Russia before flowing into the Ob river in the Khanty-Mansiysk district, Russia's premier oil province.

Ertis has been reported as being a part of another Kazakh business group, founded by businessman Serikzhan Seytzhanov, which holds the controlling stake in independent oil and gas producer Sauts Oil.

Sauts, which was founded in 1999 in the Kazakh city of Shymkent, operates several hydrocarbon blocks in the country's Kyzylorda and Karaganda regions.

Kazakhstan has carried out such online auctions since 2020 following restrictions on social distancing and travel caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.