Russian state subsurface resources agency Rosnedra is to auction exploration and development rights for a huge unexplored tract in East Siberia and 12 significantly smaller blocks in the Bashkiria, Tatarstan, Udmurtia and Nenets regons.

A strong surge in oil and gas prices this year and growing expectations of the prolonged strength in energy prices are thought to be behind the agency's attempt to sell a 27-year exploration and development licence for the Nakannovsky tract in East Siberia's Irkutsk region.

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The block covers about 15,700 square kilometres in the Katanga oil and gas district, which is a part of the larger Leno-Tunguska hydrocarbon province.

According to Rosnedra, no previous exploration drilling or seismic collection has been carried out at the remote and difficult to access acreage.

However, the agency believes the north-west of the block could hold commercial volumes of oil and gas reserves.

The Kuyumbinskoye field was discovered in the Krasnoyarsk region adjacent to the north-west of the block in 1973, with the latest assessment of its recoverable reserves at about 1.5 billion barrels of oil.

Based on several other discoveries southeast of the Nakannovsky block in Irkutsk, Rosnedra has estimated the block's possible in-place geological resources at about 800 million barrels of oil and 280 billion cubic metres of gas.

The agency has set a starting bid of 21 million rubles ($300,000) for the block, with applications accepted until 1 December and the auction scheduled for 14 December.

In other announced auctions scheduled for December, Rosnedra is offering exploration and development licences for five smaller tracts in Bashkiria, two blocks in Tatarstan, three acreages in Udmurtia and two blocks with discovered oilfields in the Nenets region.

All four regions have been producing oil and gas for several decades.