The top executive at Mozambique’s upstream regulator INP said the country’s long-awaited sixth licensing round is due to be launched early next year.

INP chairman Carlos Zacarias told Africa Oil Week delegates that his organisation is currently working out which acreage to offer industry and will then submit its proposal to the government for approval.

“We think we will be ready to present to the government our proposal to launch the bidding round by the end of the first quarter of 2020,” he said.

“We are (carrying out) an internal exercise at the INP to see which areas may be included in the bidding round.”

Zacarias picked out four areas where blocks could be made available.

“We will have potential areas in the Ruvuma basin,” he said, although INP has yet to decide on the number of blocks that may be offered here.

Acreage could also be made available in the Angoche and Zambezi basins, he said, as well as onshore in the south of Mozambique.

According to Zacarias’ presentation slides, three blocks may be made available in the Angoche basin while six blocks have been demarcated in the Zambezi basin, just to the south.

A single onshore block could be offered in the Palmeira basin.

He pointed out that input will be sought from interested players before a final decision is made.

“We plan to have a nomination process with potential investors that will allow us to take a final decision,” said the long-standing head of INP.

Outlining the likely timeline for the licensing round, Zacarias said it would take up to nine months – from nominations, the bid round launch, to the submission of proposals and their evaluation.

His slides suggested the nomination process would last for two months after which the round would be launched.

The bid process is expected to last around six months - which equates to late September – while the evaluation process is predicted to complete by the end of next year.

The announcement of the bid evaluation results plus the signing of exploration and production concession contracts (EPCC) would follow.

In Mozambique’s fifth licensing round, the EPCC signing process took three years with some bidders (Equinor and Delonex) eventually withdrawing their interest.