Suriname’s state oil company Staatsolie said on Nov. 16 it had invited international oil companies to bid for exploration rights in eight offshore shallow water blocks, after a string of crude discoveries in the South American country.

Staatsolie said companies had until April 30 to enter bids for the blocks, which it said comprised some 13,524 sq km (3.3 million acres) off its western coast near the border with Guyana.

The new bid round comes after U.S. oil firm Apache Corp. and France’s Total SA in July announced a third major offshore discovery at the Kwaskwasi-1 well, raising hopes that oil could transform the struggling economy of Suriname, a former Dutch colony of 575,000 people.

Neighboring Guyana began oil production late last year after a consortium led by Exxon Mobil Corp. discovered billions of barrels of oil and gas reserves off the country’s coast.