Myanmar has launched an auction for 30 offshore oil and gas exploration blocks in the gas-rich country’s latest effort to open up the once isolated nation.

The bidding for the exploration and development of 11 shallow and 19 deep-sea oil and gas blocks will open in June and is expected to draw fierce competition from foreign investors, reports Financial Times.

“Interested parties are to submit their letters of interest to the director general at the Naypyitaw-based ministry of energy by June 14,” the ministry said in an announcement on its website and in official newspapers on Thursday.

Potential bidders “will be allowed to submit three proposals for any three offshore blocks (shallow water or deep water or both)” the announcement said.

Companies that win licenses will be granted full rights to up to three of 19 deep water blocks on offer, the energy ministry said – a first for a sector closely controlled by the former junta regime.

Those who win the 11 shallow blocks will have to work with at least one registered local partner, the ministry added.

Myanmar is rich in gas reserves, which government officials estimate at 11 trillion to 23 trillion cubic feet. Its gas exports, mainly to neighbouring Thailand, reached $3.5 billion in the fiscal year April 2011 to March 2012, up from $2.52 billion in gas the previous year.

The country’s oil and gas industry is seen as an engine of growth as the nation emerges from decades of authoritarian military rule, reports Live Mint.