Canada's potentially rich Pacific Coast region, under moratorium since 1972. [15769 bytes] The disputed Sir Creek which blocks exploration in the Arabian Sea. [5,473 bytes] Ocean Energy [44,360 bytes]

Marshall DeLuca


A newly-formed group consisting of Total (28%), Unocal (25%), Vanco Energy (22%), Kerr-McGee (14%), and Reading & Bates Development (11%), known as the Vanco Gabon Group, has signed production sharing contracts for two deepwater exploration blocks off Gabon. The group contracted for the 6,000-sq km Astrid Marin Block, and adjacent 6,600-sq km Anton Marin Block. The blocks are located in the northern region of the lower Congo oil basin in water depths ranging from 1,000-3,000 meters. Vanco Gabon is assembling an integrated project team to provide exploration and production expertise. Three-dimensional seismic will begin in 1999, with initial drilling commencing in 2000. A subsidiary of Total will serve as operator for the group.

Ocean Energy has made two discoveries off Equatorial Guinea. In Block D, the Ambar #1 well, drilled in 252 ft of water, flowed 1,500 b/d of oil. Further drilling updip toward the crest of the structure for confirmation of the discovery's potential is planned for the first quarter of 1999. In Block B, the Turmalina well also encountered hydrocarbons in the upper two Isongo sand objectives. Drilling was halted, however, due to higher than anticipated pressures. Ocean Energy owns 100% interest in Block D and 23.75% interest in Block B.

Ocean Energy has also released its 1999 drilling plans off Africa:

Esso and partner state-owned Sonangol have struck again in the deepwater off Angola. The company has made its fourth oil find on Angola Block 15 in 3,786 ft of water. The discovery, named Dikanza, tested at 4,400 b/d of oil and was drilled to a TD of 8,960 ft. This discovery follows the recent Hungo, Kissanje, and Marimba discoveries, and increases the total development reserve estimate of Block 15 to over 1 billion bbl. Esso is currently conducting further appraisal work and development evaluation.

The governments of Equatorial Guinea and Sao Tome have begun making strides to resolve the dispute over the demarcation line between the two countries. A joint commission has been established to settle the dispute, which began when Sao Tome y Principe's exploration licenses were established. Twenty-two of the licenses, which were awarded to Mobil for an 18-month technical cooperation accord, are being disputed because they lie alongside the Equatorial Guinea border and are adjacent to the Equatorial H license, which was awarded to Elf earlier this year.


Officials are beginning to take a second look at a 26-year-old moratorium on drilling off Canada's Pacific Coast. A recent preliminary geological report stated that the region could possibly hold up to 9.8 billion bbl of oil and 1,228 Bcm of gas. The moratorium was enacted in 1972, and officials have not announced any plans on ending it. However, Western Canadian businesses eager to make up for the severe decline in the fishing, mining, and timber industries with oil and gas exploration are beginning to put pressure on the government for a change.

Petrobras has signed a letter of intent with a group of foreign banks to secure financing for oil production in the Campos Basin. Petrobras signed the agreement with ABN-Amro, Australian New Zealand, Chase Manhattan, Credit Suisse First Boston, Fuji Bank, and Bank of Tokio-Mitsubishi. The total investment needed was $1.6 billion and relates to the Espadarte, Voador, and Marimba fields.

Shell Deepwater Development has added a new Gulf of Mexico deepwater discovery to its portfolio. Shell and partners CNG and Murphy Exploration & Production encountered a 135-ft hydrocarbon-bearing interval at 11,500 ft on the North Marlin prospect in Viosca Knoll Block 827. The well was located in 2,521 ft of water and is adjacent to Shell's Tahoe Field.


Progress on a 30-year-old boundary dispute over a maritime boundary between India and Pakistan, which blocks offshore exploration, has been once again halted. India rejected an offer from Pakistan for international arbitration over the maritime boundary on a shifting tidal channel known as Sir Creek that lies along the border between the western Indian state of Gujarat and the Pakistani Sind province. The dispute has led to a 30-year block against exploration in the Arabian Sea, which is thought to be oil and gas rich.

Mobil Exploration & Producing Australia has made a significant gas discovery off Northwest Australia. The John Brookes-1 discovery recently tested at a combined rate of 53.4 MMcf/d of gas and 460 b/d of condensate from two zones of the Lower Cretaceous Flag Sandstones. The discovery is located in permit area WA-214-P in the Barrow sub-basin of the Carnarvon Basin. Mobil is the operator with a 35% interest, with partners Santos (25%), Apache (20%), and Alberta Energy Canada International (20%).

Production has begun on the Ruby Field off Vietnam. Initial production flowed at 8,000 b/d of oil to the Ruby Princess production vessel. Operator Petronas Carigali will increase production with several more wells planned on the field for next year. With the delivery of the vessel to the field, operations were able to begin 10 days ahead of schedule.

Pogo has penetrated 278 ft of new oil and gas bearing sand on the Benchamas Field in the Gulf of Thailand. The well, Benchamas No. 22, was located in the western region in the "hinge" trend of the 102,000-acre Benchamas production license area. The discovery extends the trend first discovered by the Benchamas No. 19 well drilled earlier this year. Pogo also reported that the first well from the future site of the Benchamas A platform encountered 435 ft of hydrocarbon-bearing sands.

China has discovered three oil and gas fields in the northeastern area of Bohai Bay with proven reserves of 60 million tons of oil and 8 Bcm of gas. The discoveries are in Shijiutuo, an area 100 km off the port of Tanggu covering 600 sq km. Testing showed daily production levels of 31 MMcf/d of gas and an estimated 190 tons of oil per day, making Shijiutuo China's largest offshore oil producer.

Santa Fe has been awarded a production sharing contract from China National Offshore Oil for exploration of Block 26/35 in the South China Sea. The block covers approximately 380,000 acres and is located in the Pearl River Mouth Basin area in South China where Santa Fe already holds Block 15/34, the location of the Ursa discovery earlier this year. During 1999, 2D seismic will be shot, and drilling should begin in early 2000.

Mobil has encountered 188 ft of net oil and gas pay from several zones on its deepwater West Seno prospect offshore East Kalimantan. The well West Seno No. 5 is located south of the West Seno No. 2 discovery well, which tested 13,000 b/d of oil and 12 MMcf/d of gas in mid-August. Following the discovery, an additional well, West Seno No. 1, was drilled and encountered 287 ft of net oil and gas pay. This confirms the potential of the Seno prospect to be from 210 to 720 million boe.

Central Asia

It appears that the Caspian Pipeline Consortium has been given the green light for its Modernization Feasibility Study. Kazakhstan has given final approval to the consortium and the Russian government has given official assurances of approval as well. The approval will allow for the awarding of supply and construction contracts in addition to the commencing of the construction schedule. The pipeline is anticipated for completion in 2001 and will have initial capacity of 600,000 b/d of oil with ultimate designed capacity of 1.5 million b/d.

The US Interior Department's Minerals Management Service (MMS) has extended its hand to help Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan in areas related to offshore oil and gas leasing. The MMS will use $425,000 in funding to help the countries begin to develop new regulations for drilling in the Caspian Sea. MMS will also provide some limited technical assistance to Georgia. This is in part due to the Clinton administration's promotion of the 1,080-mile pipeline from Baku to the Turkish port of Ceyhan on the Mediterranean Sea.


A new world record has been set on the ?sgard Field development in the Norwegian sector of the North Sea. Statoil has completed the world's longest designer well drilled from a floating rig. The well extends 22,704 ft and also ranks as the longest well from a floating rig off Norway. The well was drilled in 70 days using the Transocean Arctic semisubmersible. This marks the fourth well Statoil has drilled longer than 19,686 ft on the field in the past two years.

Denison Mines has plugged and abandoned a second exploration well on the Peramos Reef prospect, offshore Greece. The well reportedly found non-commercial hydrocarbon shows, similar to a well drilled earlier as part of a drilling campaign. The company is currently deliberating termination of its offshore Greece activities at the Prinos oil and gas field due to a lack of a commercial discovery and uneconomical operating costs.

Phillips has brought its Delilah Field onstream. Delilah is in Block 48/30 in the UK sector of the North Sea. Initial production was reported at 19 MMcf/d of gas, with max production set in excess of 23 MMcf/d of gas. Production is being carried out from the Hewett 48/29A platform via the Della pipeline. The field was brought onstream two months ahead of schedule.

Copyright 1998 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.

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