KINSHASA (Reuters) - Democratic Republic of Congo will open 10 blocks on Lake Tanganyika and six blocks on Lake Kivu for oil exploration as it attracts interest from foreign energy firms, an energy ministry official said on Wednesday.
The central African country, whose oil sector has been virtually paralysed since the 1970s by decades of corruption and conflict, will open the new offshore properties to bidding in April, Joseph Pili Pili, director of projects in Congo's oil ministry, told Reuters on the sidelines of a conference.
"We know Lake Tanganyika has lots of petrol because it is the only one we've got lots of data for -- seismic, magnetic -- the geology has a lot of potential," he said. Foreign firms Chevron, Total, and CNOOC had already expressed interest in the blocks, he said.
"We have to give these (blocks) to a big company because Lake Tanganyika is so deep, at 1,500 metres. It will need a lot of work," he said.
The Lake Kivu blocks, meanwhile, could provide rich reserves of natural gas, he said.
"There are 60 billion cubic metres of gas and each year it produces 350 million cubic metres," he said. "It is like you are sleeping in your bed and God just produces gas for you."
Interest in Congo's oil potential has risen in recent months after big finds on the Ugandan side of Lake Albert.
Oil majors Total and Eni have recently expressed interest in blocks on Congo's side of the lake, and several companies including Tullow are jostling for belated presidential decrees to ratify competing licenses.
Despite its potential reserves, Congo barely registers among Africa's oil producers with just 25,000 barrels per day in output, all from French independent Perenco's operations in the southwest of the country.