KIEV, Ukraine, Feb. 29 (UPI) -- Ukraine aims to attract "big international companies" to its lucrative natural gas fields during an auction, a natural resources official said.
Ukraine officials said they would auction the rights to around 70 percent of the production from two natural gas deposits in the country.
"The tender will take place by April 23," State Geology and Resources Service spokeswoman Maryna Pekarchuk told Bloomberg News. "We expect big international companies to participate."
U.S. supermajor Exxon Mobil signed a deal with state-run energy company Naftogaz last year. Other major energy companies expressing interest include Italy's Eni and Royal Dutch Shell.
Anglo-Russian energy company TNK-BP, a joint venture between BP and Russian billionaires, also has plans to bid for shale gas licenses in Ukraine.
Ukraine consumed more than 1.8 trillion cubic feet of Russian gas in 2010 and energy ties between the countries looms large in regional energy security matters. As much as 80 percent of Russia's gas heads through Ukraine's pipeline system en route to Europe.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates Ukraine has as much as 42 trillion cubic feet of shale natural gas.