Iran Alborz to drill in Caspian Sea

NIOC expects to start drilling in the Iranian sector of the Caspian Sea within the next month, using its newbuild semisubmersible Iran-Alborz.

Offshore staff

TEHRAN – NIOC expects to start drilling in the Iranian sector of the Caspian Sea within the next month, using its newbuild semisubmersible Iran-Alborz.

Managing Director Seyfollah Jashnsaz told the country’s Petroenergy Information Network (Shana) that the two deepwater wells – firsts for Iran in this sector – would be managed by a foreign-owned drilling contractor.

However, once Iranian nationals have gained sufficient experience in these conditions, Iran’s North Drilling Co. will take charge of future operations with the rig.

Jashnsaz said that Iran had identified 20 anticlines in the Caspian Sea. In the past, the country drilled five wells in the shallow water sector, but results were not commercial. Seismic surveys of this area also revealed no exploitable hydrocarbon resources, hence the decision to build the Iran-Alborz.

He admitted that Iran had lagged other countries in this region in terms of deepwater capability, and this was one of the main reasons why exploration in greater depths had not featured until now. However, NIOC hopes to draw on Petrobras’ expertise in deepwater drilling in future, according to Khazar Oil Co. Managing Director Mohamed Hosein Dana.

Construction of the 15,000-ton (13,608-metric ton) Iran-Alborz started in 2004 – the cost of building the rig, three associated tugboats and an operations support center at Neka was $500 million, Hosein Dana claimed. One of the tugs will also have deepwater pipelay assistance capability, he added.

Iran has prioritized six geological formations in the south and west of the Caspian Sea for drilling, with the current focus on block 6, 250 km (155 mi) offshore.

NIOC is confident of commercial discoveries. Following a rolling program of drilling planned between now and 2011, it hopes in future to exploit annually 200 MMbbl of oil and 20 bcm (706 bcf) of gas by means of FPSOs. However, Iran has work to do to develop relevant contracting expertise, Hosein Dana admitted.

Production could be transported to a new refinery under construction on Iran’s stretch of the Caspian coast.

Jashnshaz added that NIOC has entered into negotiations with Petronas with a view to conducting seismic operations in Caspian Sea blocks in the near future.

07-28-2009

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