* Says CNOOC one of Chinese firms seeking opening in Nigeria
* Says talks with CNOOC not new, predates present government
LAGOS, Sept 29 (Reuters) - Nigeria is not offering oil licences currently operated by Chevron (CVX.N), ExxonMobil (XOM.N) and Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L) to China while renewal negotiations are ongoing, a government minister said on Tuesday.
“We are not offering leases that are up for renewal in the middle of negotiations to renew. That is not happening,” Minister of State for Petroleum Odein Ajumogobia told Reuters in a telephone interview.
He said CNOOC, China’s no. 3 oil and gas producer, was one of several state-owned Chinese companies searching for opportunities in Nigeria and elsewhere.
“We are talking to them about their quest to buy proven reserves. This is not new, this predates this administration,” Ajumogobia said.
He said the Chinese had identified a number of blocks in which they would be interested, including licences operated by Royal Dutch Shell (RDSa.L), Chevron (CVX.N) and ExxonMobil (XOM.N) which originally expired last November and December.
Chevron and Exxon won a year’s extension, meaning their licences are due to expire this year, while Shell successfully sought a court injunction allowing it to continue to operate while it challenged the expiry, an industry executive said.
“We have not invited anyone to discuss the possibility of leasing these proven reserves. The Chinese made an offer and said they had identified certain blocks including some already being exploited by some of our partners,” Ajumogobia said.
He said renewal talks with Shell, Chevron and Exxon were ongoing. (For more Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: af.reuters.com/ ) (Reporting by Nick Tattersall; Editing by Randy Fabi)