Sudan aims to have completed agreements with international oil companies by the end of March for the drilling rights to three exploration blocks, Oil Minister Awad al-Jaz said on 3 February. Al-Jaz said that the ministry was negotiating with companies from the Middle East, Europe, Asia and South Africa over the rights to Block 8 in the southeast Blue Nile region, Block 9 near Khartoum and Block 15 on the Red Sea coast. Romanian’s state-owned SNP Petroleum is first in line for Block 8 while a number of UK companies are interested in Block 15, said Al-Jaz. The minister denied that companies had been put off by the withdrawal of Canada’s Talisman Energyfrom the Greater Nile oil project (MEED 21:6:02). Russian/Belarussian oil company Slavneftpulled out of its exploration contract on Block 9 in August, blaming political risk and lack of profitability. There is no accepted figure for Sudanese oil reserves, but the US’ Energy Information Administration uses a conservative figure for ‘estimated proven’ reserves of 262.1 million barrels (MEED 9:8:02).