The Indonesian Government has formally opened bids for 24 new oil and gas blocks, the Director General of Oil and Gas Evita Legowo announced.

Offshore blocks situated in South Sulawesi, West Java and Central Java will be allocated directly to some companies. About 17 blocks in the eastern part of the country, including the Tomini basin and Bone Bay offshore blocks in Gorontalo, will be granted in regular tenders, Legowo said.

About seven blocks are located in the Tomini Bay and Gorontalo Tomini working areas, which are regarded as the most promising sites. Gorontalo and Tomini are believed to have large amounts of resources, Legowo said.

Proposals for direct appointments will be accepted until 30 July, while regular tender bids will be admitted until 13 October.

In 2008 the government of Indonesia signed 33 contracts worth $912.1m, covering resources such as oil, natural gas and coal-bed methane.

The contracts comprise 29 oil and natural gas blocks, consisting of 20 direct-offer blocks and nine regular-bid blocks. The blocks together are worth $891.8m and four coal-bed methane projects are worth $20.3m.

Contracts for six blocks now operated by multinational energy companies were due to expire in 2009. The operators are looking for extensions from the government.

PT Pertamina is interested in the Madura Strait and Mahakam blocks, but Legowo added that it does not plan to become a major shareholder.