Mexico gas pre-qualified 20 companies to bid for five shallow-water development contracts covering nine blocks in the Gulf of Mexico.

The tender is the second in Mexico's staggered first licensing round forged by an energy reform that was enacted a year ago.

Nine of the pre-qualified firms are running individually, including Chevron, Shell, China's state-owned CNOOC, Russia's Lukoil, Norway´s Statoil, India´s state-controlled ONGC Videsh, Spain´s Cepsa, Germany´s DEA Deutsche Erdoel and US Plains.

The other 11 are part of consortiums, including Italian Eni with US Casa Exploration; BP-controlled Pan American Energy with Argentinian E&P Hidrocarburos y Servicios; Malaysia's state-owned Petronas with Portugal's Galp; and US Fieldwood with Mexico's PetroBal.

Houston-based Talos has again teamed up with Sierra Oil & Gas, one of Mexico´s first independent oil companies, along with Mexican billionaire Carlos Slim's Carso Oil and Gas.

This could be Slim's first foray into the bidding, but Talos and Sierra won together the only two blocks that were awarded last month in the country´s first-ever public tender of 14 shallow-water exploration contracts.

Mexico had pre-qualified 25 firms for the first tender, but only two out of 14 contracts were awarded. The low turnout was attributed to falling oil prices but also the contract terms, some of which the government has since eased.

A third tender for 25 onshore, mostly mature fields, is scheduled for 30 September, while the much-awaited auction of coveted deepwater acreage was postponed from July to the end of September.

A fifth tender for shale and unconventional areas has been suspended.

Mexico´s state-owned Pemex, which lost its monopoly in the energy reform, is conspicuously absent from the list of participants in Round One so far, but the firm is expected to vie in the deepwater tender.

Source: - Offshore