* Sri Lanka extends deadline for new exploration licence bids
* New data to be made available for bidders for 13 blocks
* Another six large blocks available for joint study
* Cairn discovered gas, condensate in first two wells
By Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO, July 11 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka expects to award new exploration licences for 13 blocks in the Cauvery and Mannar Basins off its northwest coast within the first quarter of 2014 after extending a bidding deadline, a top government official said of Thursday.
Sri Lanka kicked off the second round of bids for the new exploration licenses in March with an initial deadline of Sept. 29. The deadline has been extended to Nov. 29 due to delays in providing seismic data and a geophysical survey for potential bidders, the official said.
"We expect to award them well within the first quarter of the next year," Saliya Wickramasuriya, head of the country's Petroleum Resource Development Secretariat (PRDS) told an energy forum in Colombo.
"There are some companies who wanted the data at the bid round," he said.
Six larger blocks in the island nation's southeastern coast, with an area between 20,000-40,000 square km, are opened to be discussed, negotiated and awarded as a joint study at any time with immediate effect, he said.
"The blocks could be started as soon as an operator signs with the government on agreement of the study," he said, adding that the joint study could also include seismic data gathering.
Cairn India, a unit of London-listed Vedanta Resources Plc , has discovered gas and condensate in two of the three wells drilled in an earlier phase, though commercial viability has yet to be determined.
The third well was plugged and abandoned as it encountered reservoir sands that were not hydrocarbon bearing.
Sri Lanka has tried to reinvigorate oil and gas exploration efforts since the end of a three-decade war with Tamil separatists in May 2009. The island nation does not currently produce oil and spent $5.04 billion on imports in 2012.