Current Asia-Pacific geophysical activity makes future promising

Oct. 1, 2006
Between expressed plans to run survey lines and the active pace of new permit area releases, seismic work in the Pacific Rim from deepwaters off China to unexplored areas off New Zealand should keep earth scientists in the region busy.

Between expressed plans to run survey lines and the active pace of new permit area releases, seismic work in the Pacific Rim from deepwaters off China to unexplored areas off New Zealand should keep earth scientists in the region busy.


Two companies busy together off China are China National Offshore Oil Corp. and Husky Oil China Ltd. in the deepwaters of block 29/06 in the eastern South China Sea. They also have paired in blocks 35/18 and 50/14 of the western South China Sea. Block 29/06 at the Pearl River Mouth basin has water depths from 500 to 1,500 m. Husky will conduct a 3D survey prior to drilling an exploratory well. Blocks 35/18 and 50/14 in Yinggehai basin both are scheduled to get 3D surveys and wildcats. Water depths on these two blocks are less than 95 m.

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Primeline Energy Holdings Inc. has completed the first phase of a 3D seismic survey over block 25/34 in the East China Sea. The seismic vesselBinhai 512 is scheduled to return to the area and complete additional runs this month, upon completion of another contract in the area. The survey will help evaluate prospects to the north and east of the existing gas discovery Lishui 36-1. Phase one was conducted west of the well.

Sri Lanka

According to newspaper reports from the area, state oil companies from India and China will be exploring two blocks off Sri Lanka in the Gulf of Mannar and off the west coast of the country. A second phase of seismic work identified some prospects in 2005, and the first phase of exploration in this instance is scheduled to begin in late summer of 2007.


Petronas Carigali Sdn. Bhd. and partner Chevron Asia South Ltd. have signed an exploration contract for block 122 in water depths up to 2,500 m. in the Phu Khanh basin. The joint venture has committed to acquire and process 3,000 km of 2D seismic data and also to reprocess 2,000 km. of data previously acquired on the block.

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US-based Pogo and Keeper Resources were scheduled to sign an agreement with PetroVietnam on block 124 offshore central Vietnam in the basin. Under the seven-year contract, Pogo as operator will conduct 3D seismic work on an 850 sq km area and drill two exploration wells within the first three years of the agreement.

Papua/New Guinea

In a bid to attract international investors to further develop its hydrocarbon resources, the Papua New Guinea government has launched its first bidding round, offering 15 blocks, with a 69% gross profit share to contractors under a new fiscal regime.

At least 10 of the blocks are in the coastal and Gulf of Papua area in water depth ranging from 20-2,500 m, and come with 12,000 km of new seismic data as well as 30,000 km of reprocessed and reinterpreted data.

Key criteria for selecting bidders would be the commitment to the number of wells to be drilled, the use of latest technical expertise, and support of financial resources.

The concession would come with six years of exploration with an extension option for five years. A 30% tax incentive would be granted to the development project undertaken in the concession acreage before Dec. 31, 2017, having signed the block before Dec. 31, 2007.

The blocks, in sizes from 1,900 sq km to 11,700 sq km, have newly recognized prospects and were closer in proximity to existing discoveries on the Papua sedimentary basin.


Tap Oil Ltd. has completed a farm-in agreement on Service Contract 41 offshore Philippines in the Sandakan basin. Covering 5,000 sq km with water depths to 2,000 m, the agreement includes acquisition of some 300 sq km of 3D seismic data and, depending upon the results, an exploration well in 2007. The SC 41 2D seismic data indicated a four-way dip closure with hydrocarbon indications.

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A 6,000 km seismic survey in three contract areas offshore Palawan is scheduled to begin soon by the Philippine National Oil Co. as part of its exploration plans.

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Off southwest Palawan in Service Contract 55, NorAsian Energy Ltd. has contracted Veritas Geophysical (Asia-Pacific) to gather 400 km of 2D seismic data over the Marantao Reef prospect, with its more than 150 sq km of mapped closure. Ottoman Energy Ltd., parent of NorAsian, says SC 55 is in the middle of a 1,000 km fairway running from fields off Brunei and Sarawak to the undeveloped Calauit field north of Palawan. The contract area has a series of reefs on the Marantao trend and deepwater Miocene Pagasa turbidite sand targets.

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Geological and geophysical study is under way on block SC-49 which is partly offshore and partly onshore Cebu Island. Ranhill Bhd. is scheduled to drill its first well in the area within a year and has targeted first production 18 months following the start of drilling. The company has committed $600,000 to 2006 exploration activities.

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The China National Offshore Oil Corp. is conducting a seismic survey offshore Calamian Islands, northwest Philippines, in team with PNOC and Mitra Energy. The survey is a 2,500 sq km area north of the existing oilfields at Malampaya, Nido, Cadlao, and Matinloc, and is in the Palawan block.

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A farm-in agreement has been reached between Nido Petroleum Ltd. and the Philippine National Oil Co. whereby Nido will earn 50% interest in SC 58 offshore Palawan basin.

The SC 58 covers 1.34 million ha and is contiguous with Nido’s SC 54 and adjacent to the Malampaya gas field.

Nido will under take an $8.5-million seismic acquisition and interpretation plan to January 2008.

The exploration begins immediately with a 3,500 km, 2D group shoot over both SC 58 and SC 54. PNOC has been taking the lead in this group shoot and Nido has secured the MVVeritas Voyager. The 2D program will be followed by a 3D survey later this year in SC 54 and a subsequent 3D seismic program in SC 58. Nido will operate both seismic acquisition programs.


In northern Sumatra’s offshore Kambuna field, Serica Energy plans to conduct a 3D seismic survey to help define the field potential with an aim toward bringing the field onstream in 2008 producing both natural gas and condensate. Serica also has submitted plans to explore and produce the adjacent Tanjung Perling field in the Asahan block, plus continue exploring nine other prospects in the vicinity.


Reliance Industries Ltd. completed more than the contractual obligations for seismic data acquisition covering Cauvery block CY-PR-DWN-2001-3, running more than 2,550 km of 2D against a requirement of 2,100 km plus 2,700 sq km of 3D. The results are plans for eight exploratory wells in the block.

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The fate of some seismic work is in the hands of the Indian government. ONGC has applied for an alternate work program for five NELP-II deepwater blocks - GS-DWN-2001/1, GS-DWN-2000/2, MB-DWN-2000/1, MB-DWN-2000/2, and KK-DWN-2000/4. ONGC is seeking to conduct more surveys rather than begin drilling as scheduled in the original agreement. As of this writing, no resolution had been reached.

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A 3D seismic program in Reliance Industries Ltd.’s Kerala-Konkan offshore block KK-OSN-97/2 has been completed and an analysis of the pre-stack time migration has been done by Western Geco. This is expected to lead to the selection of drilling locations in the block. Reliance is required to drill four wells in the area.


More than $55 million has been designated by the Australian government for spending over the next five years on acquisition of geosciences data. Included in the spending will be seismic data acquisition and enhancement. The focus is new frontier offshore prospects to be identified with the help of the industry.

In addition, Australia recently awarded 12 new exploration permits on winning bids of about $275 million. The awards were as follows:

  • One permit to Shell Development (Australia) Pty. Ltd. and Chevron Australia Pty. Ltd., in the Carnarvon basin off Western Australia, near Scarborough gas field
  • Two permits to Octanex NL and Strata Resources NL, in the Southern Exmouth sub-basin, southwest of the Enfield oil production area
  • One permit to Oilex NL, Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. Ltd., Videocon Industries Ltd., Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd., and Hindustan Petroleum Corp. Ltd., in deepwater in the Northern Exmouth plateau
  • One permit to Gascorp Australia Ltd., in the Outer Exmouth plateau in a deepwater extension of Australia’s major hydrocarbon producing basin
  • One permit in the Northern Exmouth plateau, northwest of the Mutineer/Exeter oil field, to Cue Exploration Pty. Ltd.
  • One permit to Gascorp Australia Ltd., in the Northern Exmouth plateau, northeast of the Janz/Io gas discovery
  • Two permits to Westralian Petroleum Ltd., Lempika Pty. Ltd., and Emphazise Pty. Ltd., within a proven petroleum system in the Perth basin off Western Australia
  • One permit to Exoil Ltd., Gascorp Australia Ltd., Moby Oil and Gas Ltd., and National Energy Pty. Ltd., in the Otway basin off South Australia
  • Two permits to Oil and Gas Pty. Ltd., Australian Natural Gas Pty. Ltd., and Nations Natural Gas Pty. Ltd., in the Bonaparte basin off the Northern Territory.

Chevron Australia Pty. Ltd. plans geotechnical studies, and seismic data acquisition and interpretation on WO5-13 in the deepwater Carnarvon basin off Northwestern Australia. That is the same area which includes the North West Shelf and Greater Gorgon plays. Reprocessing of 1,500 km. of seismic survey data is scheduled to be under way now, and the new seismic work will be done in 2007-2008, according to Chevron.

New Zealand

The near-shore PEP 38729 in north Taranaki basin is targeted for a seismic survey by New Zealand Oil & Gas to fill in data between existing offshore and onshore seismic work. The Felix and Opito-updip prospects are the targets. The acquisition geometry aims to define the Eocene Kapuni Group sandstone. That formation is prolific offshore at the Maui, Pohukura, and Tui fields. The project is expected to be completed by year-end and drilling prospects identified for possible 2007 work.

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Pogo Producing Co. and Mighty River Power plan to drill the first well in one of three Taranaki exploration permits off New Zealand during 3Q07.

In June, Mighty River Power acquired 50% of Pogo’s three offshore Taranaki blocks -- PEPs 38488, 38489, and 38490.

Pogo New Zealand completed a portion of the initial technical program (2D seismic reprocessing, 3D data acquisition and processing) in the three offshore Taranaki permits before Mighty River joined.

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New Zealand awarded its first ever exploration permit in the Outer Taranaki basin. The 55,800-sq km permit went to Global Resources.

The proposed exploration program will see Global Resources acquire 3,100 km of new 2D seismic data along with associated geo-technical studies, and drill an exploration well within 42 months. The results are expected to provide a better understanding of the basin.

“The exploration program is particularly exciting because if the initial stages of exploration meet expectations, there is a real prospect of the Outer Taranaki basin having its first well drilled,” says Harry Duynhoven, associate energy minister.


Exploration offshore Tasmania has been growing since there were four permits released in 2002. In 2006, 14 more permits were issued and more are expected in 2007. The permits are for five years and call for spending of more than $300 million for at least 16 seismic surveys and 14 wells. Much of the work is expected off the West Coast and King Island. The pace of development is expected to be rapid and to use the existing Yolla and Thylacine platforms and pipeline infrastructure as development hubs.

Timor Sea

The Timor Sea Designated Authority has awarded its first ever acreage on four tracts. The awards were Minza Oil Ltd. on tract 06-101; Petronas as operator for Korea Gas Corp., Samsung Corp., and LG International Corp. on 06-102; Oilex as operator with Bharat Petroleum Corp. Ltd., Videocon Industries Ltd., and Gujarat State Petroleum Corp. Ltd. on 06-103; and Zetex N.V. at block 06-104. Exploration details should become available once the final production sharing contracts are signed.

Establishment of the Timor Sea Designated Authority has allowed exploration to begin.
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Petronas, with partners Kogas, LG International, and Samsung Corp., plans to spend $50 million exploring offshore between Australia and East Timor. The targets are natural gas and condensate.