Bulgaria has picked France's Total for the exploration of a deepwater gas field off the country's Black Sea coast, the Bulgarian energy ministry said.
Total will work together with Austria's OMV and Spain's Repsol, the ministry said in a statement on Thursday.
The only other competing bid in the tender was filed by UK-based Melrose Resources.
The 14,440 square kilometer Khan Asparuh block adjoins Bulgaria's northern border with Romania, where significant deposits of natural gas, estimated between 40 billion and 80 billion cubic metres, were recently discovered.
Bulgaria expects the exploration of the Khan Asparuh block to contribute to the diversification of its natural gas supply and to help negotiate lower prices for gas deliveries from its main supplier, Russia's Gazprom. At present, the price of domestic gas supply is 40% lower than those of imports, the statement quoted energy minister Delyan Dobrev as saying.
Over the past few years, Bulgaria has been extracting natural gas from two Black Sea deposits, at Kaliakra and Kavarna, which despite their modest volume of 443 million cubic metres last year, covered 15% of domestic consumption.