Namibia's Nampower plans to solicit bids as early as April for the $1 billion power plant that forms part of its Kudu gas-to-power project, the power utility's managing director told Reuters on Wednesday.

The development of the 1.3 trillion cubic feet offshore gas field has been plagued for over a decade by price disagreements and technical difficulties.

Russian gas exporter Gazprom, which had been in talks to build the 800 megawatt plant for the project, will now have to go up against other bidders, Paulus Shilamba told Reuters in an interview.

We are looking for a partner for construction of the plant, he said.

Tenders will go out in April and Gazprom will get their chance just like everyone else.

Gazprom and state-owned petroleum company Namcor together hold a 54 percent share in the upstream part of the project.

Japan's Itochu Corp owns 15 percent, with the remaining 31 percent held by Tullow Oil.

Nampower said it was close to a gas price agreement with the upstream consortium controlling Kudu, and could sign an agreement by September, Shilamba said.

He also said power purchase agreements were being negotiated for excess power. One potential partner for such a deal could be South African utility Eskom , he said.

Tullow said two weeks ago that the upstream, or exploration and production, part of the project was also progressing.

The company said it expected to get a production licence in the first quarter of this year, allowing it to move ahead with the design and construction of offshore components.