Indonesia has decided to put off auctions of 12 oil and gas exploration blocks to next year due to the novel coronavirus pandemic, a Minister said here on Wednesday. The decision came after the oil and gas cooperation contract holders KKKS proposed to reschedule the auctions as the virus outbreak has led the investors in the upstream oil and gas sector to reevaluate their investment, Minister for Energy and Mineral Resources Arifin Tasrif said.

"As the Covid-19 outbreak has hit the country, the response of the KKKS is predicted not to be too enthusiastic, if the auctions are carried out this year," Minister Tasrif told lawmakers in a session at the parliament building. The contract holders proposed the public sales of the 12 working areas to be delayed to the first quarter of next year, according to him, Xinhua news agency reported.

COVID-19 in Indonesia

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Coronavirus outbreak in China (Representational picture) Pixabay

Two out of the 12 blocks are situated in the deep sea of Sulawesi and Kalimantan Strait in the central part of Indonesia, according to Acting Director-General for Oil and Gas Ego Syahrial.

The Covid-19 outbreak has hampered activities in the upstream oil sector, as new protocols to cushion the spread of the deadly virus have slowed transports of materials and inspections of work performance besides lowering the productivity amid restricted movements of workforces, according to the country's oil and gas upstream regulator.

The country's crude oil production peaked 1.7 million barrels per day in the middle of the 1990s, but aging wells and lackluster of new reserves in recent years have squeezed the outputs of about half, it said.