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Rosneft, Eni in line for Equatorial Guinea's Fortuna gas block

Malabo, Equatorial Guinea — Russian oil giant Rosneft and Italy's Eni have expressed an interest in developing Equatorial Guinea's stalled Fortuna LNG project which is now back on the block as part of a new licensing round, according to a government official from the Central African producer.

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Equatorial Guinea launched a new onshore and offshore licensing round this week, as OPEC's smallest producer looks to reinvigorate upstream activity and stem a decline in oil output from its maturing fields.

The licensing round includes 24 offshore and two onshore blocks and covers Ophir Energy's former gas-rich Block R, which was to feed its Fortuna floating LNG project.

Rosneft and Eni are among a list of integrated oil majors which have already signaled an interest in the former Block R, a government official close to the bidding round told S&P Global Platts. China's CNOOC and Malaysia's Petronas have also shown interest, he said.

Equatorial Guinea stripped UK-based Ophir Energy of its license to develop the major offshore Fortuna gas discovery earlier this year after Ophir failed to secure financing for the project.

Now renamed as block EG-27, the former Fortuna block's resources are estimated at some 3.7 Tcf (105 Bcm) of gas, and the $2 billion Fortuna LNG facility had been expected to produce 2.2 million mt/year of LNG.

"We do have a lot of interest in that block, especially some Russian interest. They have made a very enticing and interesting proposal but we still want everybody to bid," oil minister Gabriel Obiang Lima told Platts separately.

Equatorial Guinea is open to block EG-27 being developed either as a floating LNG project or as pipeline connection to its existing Punta Europe LNG plant on Bioko Island, he said.

In addition to the gas block EG-27, ExxonMobil, Tullow and Kosmos have also expressed interest in the country's latest upstream round, the official said.

Block EG-23, adjacent to Marathon Oil's Alba gas-condensate field and the maritime boundary with Nigeria, holds the Estaurolita gas discovery.

Located 27km from ExxonMobil's Zafiro field, the EG-23 block also includes the Tsavarita oil discovery and the non-commercial Sodalita West oil find, the ministry said.

The round closes on September 27, and a month later winners will be announced at the Gas Exporting Countries Forum 5th Gas Summit in Equatorial Guinea. The government expects to sign the final PSC in early 2020.

-- Robert Perkins, robert.perkins@spglobal.com

-- Edited by Jonathan Fox, newsdesk@spglobal.com