* Second round of petroleum licensing to start in Houston
* Blocks in Cauvery, Mannar Basins to be offered
* Govt says details to be announced soon
* Country does not currently produce oil
By Shihar Aneez
COLOMBO, Feb 26 (Reuters) - Sri Lanka is set to offer a
second batch of licences to explore for oil and gas, as it looks
to start production in the country and ease its dependence on
The government said on Tuesday that it would invite
companies to bid for licences on some of the 13 blocks in the
Cauvery and Mannar Basins off the nation's northwest coast.
It added that details on the number of blocks would be
announced shortly and that it would launch a roadshow for the
process on March 7 in Houston, Texas, before moving on to London
The step comes after Cairn India, the only firm to
buy a licence in an earlier offering, kicked off the second part
of its exploration programme early this month, following the
discovery of gas and condensate in the first phase.
Since the end of a three-decade war with Tamil separatists
in May 2009, the government has tried to reinvigorate oil and
The island nation does not currently produce oil, spending
$5.04 billion on imports in 2012.
Seismic work carried out earlier by Norway's TGS Nopec
Geophysical Co ASA showed some potential in the
northern Cauvery Basin, which on the Indian side has producing
wells, and in a basin off the island's southern coast.
Sri Lanka's government has said the seismic data shows the
potential for more than 1 billion barrels of oil under the sea
in a 30,000 sq km area of the Cauvery basin.
Cairn has the rights to drill in one of eight blocks in the
offshore Mannar basin. China and India have been offered one
each, which they are yet to accept, while the remaining five are
expected to be tendered in the upcoming licensing round.
Russia's natural gas monopoly Gazprom and
Malaysian state oil company Petronas have held talks
with Sri Lanka on potential exploration, and Vietnam and Sri
Lanka signed a deal on oil and gas cooperation in October, 2011.
(Reporting by Shihar Aneez; Editing by Joseph Radford)