June 1, 2002
In late April, Eni announced the successful completion of exploration well Panda 1 off the southern coast of Sicily. The well confirmed the presence of a new gas field in the Sicily Channel at 460-m water depth.


In late April, Eni announced the successful completion of exploration well Panda 1 off the southern coast of Sicily. The well confirmed the presence of a new gas field in the Sicily Channel at 460-m water depth. The Panda 1 gas find opens the door to a new exploration period in the Sicily Channel, where the main exploration focus historically has been on oil.

The basin under study shows potential reserves that will be confirmed by additional wells.

Eni is the operator of the joint venture with British Gas Italia and Edison Gas.


ExxonMobil subsidiary Mobil Equatorial Guinea Inc. has begun awarding contracts to expand production on the Zafiro Field off Equatorial Guinea.

The new development, known as the Zafiro Southern Expansion Area, will employ an early production system to recover 150 MMbbl of oil. The development consists of subsea wells tied back to a floating production, storage, and offloading vessel with processing capacity of 110,000 b/d and storage capacity of 2 MMbbl. Nineteen subsea wells are planned, and drilling is expected to continue until 2004.

The Zafiro Field, located on Block B, is in 1,400-2,800-ft water depths. First production from the new $90-million project is scheduled for September 2003.

Mobil Equatorial Guinea operates Block B with 71.25% interest. Ocean Energy holds 23.75%, and the government of Equatorial Guinea has the remaining 5% interest.


Petrobras has announced a move to increase Brazil's proven crude reserves by 4.9 Bbbl by 2005. Following years of wildcat drilling, the new focus will be in areas with probable deposits. The company plans to drill a large number of appraisal wells in discovery areas in hopes that the program will help Brazil to reach self-sufficiency by 2005.

Petrobras is banking on high-end technology that will facilitate deepwater drilling, most of which will target oil in the Roncador and Marlim Sul fields in the Campos Basin. Output from this region accounts for about 80% of the country's production.

Brazil's fourth bidding round for offshore licenses will take place this month.

TotalFinaElf (TFE) suspended development for the onshore segment of the Carina and Aries natural gas project in Argentina. The offshore portion of the development, which includes installation work already underway on the two platforms and pipelines, will continue. The $400-million development was to come on stream in the second half of next year. Gas production was expected to reach 12 MMcm/d.

TFE subsidiary Total Austral is operator with 37.5%. Wintershall holds 37.5%, and Pan American Energy the remaining 25%.

Middle East

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The Egyptian General Petroleum Corp. (EGPC) and the Egyptian Natural Gas Holding Co. announced the opening of the International 2002 bid round. Exploration blocks are in the Gulf of Suez, the Red Sea, and the Mediterranean Sea. Data packages were made available May 26 at EGPC Geological & Geophysical center in Nasr City. The bidding will close on Oct. 1.


Australia is set to spend significant sums on exploration and development in the Bass Strait, between Victoria and Tasmania. A recently completed $33.4-million seismic survey was undertaken with the objective of identifying sufficient hydrocarbon reserves to keep the region in production over the long term. The seismic survey, which will target new gas reserves for the first time, is to be followed by a two-year, $139-million drilling program. The Bass Strait fields, controlled by Esso/BHP Billiton, produced more than 3 Bbbl through 1Q 2002.

The Australian government says significant new acreage will be offered for bid. The release of 41 areas is part of a strategy to encourage more exploration of Australia's continental shelf. Sites being made available include 15 areas off Western Australia, one area off Ashmore and Cartier Islands, four areas off Victoria, nine off the Northern Territory, eight off South Australia, and four off Tasmania.

Bids for seven of the areas will close Oct. 24, 2002. Bidding for the remaining 34 areas will close April 10, 2003.

Interest is picking up in the third round of India's New Exploration Licensing Pol-icy (NELP-III). A total of 27 blocks will be on offer, including nine deepwater blocks, seven shallow water blocks, and seven onshore blocks. Five of the blocks are on offer for the first time, while new seismic data has been provided for 16 of the blocks. The licensing round is expected to conclude Aug. 28.

Cairn Energy says it will bid on at least one of the blocks. The company operates an oilfield off India's east coast and has exploration interests off the west coast. Cairn has logged nine discoveries out of 11 wells off India and has begun some development activity in the region for the first time.

Central Asia

Local reports in Kazakhstan indicate rights to develop the Kurmangazy oil field will soon be up for grabs. TFE is making plans to participate in this development, located in Kazakhstan's sector of the northern Caspian Sea.

In late May, Russia and Kazakhstan signed an agreement delineating geographical coordinates for dividing the northern part of the sea. This partition awards ownership of Kurmangazy to Kazakhstan, with joint development by Russian companies. In exchange, the Khvalynskoye Field, in the same region, will be under Russian jurisdiction, with Kazakhstan's participation. The Kurmangazy Field holds estimated reserves of 1.1 Bbbl.

TFE holds a 14.3% stake in Kazakhstan North Caspian Operating Co., the production consortium led by Eni that is developing the Kashagan field on the North Caspian coast.