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Colombia's Ecopetrol says bidding for 11 Gulf of Mexico oil blocks

BOGOTA, March 28 (Reuters) - Colombia's government-owned oil producer Ecopetrol said on Friday it made the highest offers in a recent auction to explore 11 offshore blocks for crude oil in the Gulf of Mexico, as part of its strategy to boost investment abroad.

Ecopetrol said seven of those bids were made jointly with Murphy Exploration and the other four in partnership with Venari Offshore, both headquartered in the United States.

Their joint offers totaled $73.2 million, of which Ecopetrol's participation is $33.7 million. If their bids are successful, the companies will be able to explore for oil in waters deeper than 221 meters for 10 years.

Ecopetrol said in a statement that the United States' Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) had confirmed the results of the auction and that it was the highest bidder for 11 blocks. The BOEM will allocate the blocks in the coming months to successful bidders who meet all of its criteria.

Ecopetrol, by far Colombia's biggest oil producer, has been exploring in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico since 2008 and already has a stake in 138 offshore concessions. The company also conducts exploration and production activities in Brasil and Peru.

(Reporting by Luis Jaime Acosta; Writing by Peter Murphy; Editing by Ken Wills)

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