While the big news in the upstream world of exploration
is the licensing is the new U.K. licensing
regime there are other areas attracting the attention of explorers.
Ken White, of I HS Energy which provided the information for the
EXPLOER, noted "areas generating strong interest at the moment are
new areas such as the Sao Tome, Nigeria JDZ following
the resolution of certain difficulties, India where the new round
follows a number of quality discoveries both on- and offshore, a
joint initiative between Algeria and Libya, and West Africa -- Mauritania
down to Ghana."
White also said "license opportunities abound in Latin America,
but the area is proving frustrating at the moment. Tax and other
fiscal issue continue to dominate, economies are suffering (but
improved in some cases on one year ago) and state companies may
be split and reorganized in both Colombia and Ecuador.
"All has generated a level of uncertainty that is limiting license
activity in this part of the world at the moment," he said.
So, what's going to happen next in the world of exploration?
Obviously, no one knows for sure -- but some clues can be found
by knowing what acreage is either now or soon will be available
The following summary regarding available acreage is an excerpt
from the International Acreage Inventory, a quarterly supplement
to the International Oil Letter published by IHS Energy (www.ihsenergy.com).
A licensing round includes 12 packages of 28 blocks in different
Closing date is November 10.
Government oil company Sonangol has delineated three ultra-deep
water areas totaling 131,700 square kilometers for future licensing
Water depths exceed 2,500 meters. One area is subject to the settlement
of a maritime border dispute with the Republic of Congo.
Direct negotiations available are for the Namibe Basin by both
Namcor and Sonangol. Sonangol and Namcor have conducted a joint
study to promote the petroleum potential of the Namibe Basin, which
straddles the border.
Two onshore blocks are being offered in the northern part of the
Keta Basin. Exploratory wells are yet to be drilled in the acreage.
Exploration acreage and marginal field development opportunities
are being offered onshore in the Douala Basin and in the onshore/transitional
Rio del Rey Basin. Government entity SNH says data availability
includes 1,667 kilometers of 2-D seismic of various vintages as
well as data from three wells, two of which had oil and gas shows.
State company Petroci has delineated four blocks within an unlicensed
8,890 square kilometers onshore coastal area, presumed to be available
for direct, out-of-round negotiations.
Although there is only a Mining Law and no Petroleum Law, the Ministry
of Energy and Natural Resources is offering three blocks in the
first-ever invitation for petroleum exploration.
WesternGeco plans to acquire speculative/non-proprietary 2-D seismic
data in the Gulf of Aden and the southern Red Sea.
The recently-created Ganoub El Wadi Holding Petroleum Co. has opened
its 2003 Bid Round 1, comprising three blocks in the Nile Valley,
Upper Egypt. The three blocks covering a total area of 95,227 square
Two blocks in the Rio Muni Basin are available for direct negotiation.
A total of 20 blocks and part-blocks in the Red Sea Basin remain
open for licensing under Production Sharing Agreements. Each full
block covers one degree by one degree and comprises a surface area
of approximately 11,800 square kilometers.
Seventeen blocks are offered on a first-come, first-served basis,
mainly in the Ogaden Basin in southeast Ethiopia. The ministry is
seeking geophysical companies to shoot seismic on the blocks at
their own cost, to be recovered through data sales. The offer includes
two new tracts that represent the exploration acreage around the
Calub gas field.
Gambella Petroleum, the last E&P rightholder in the country,
was forced to surrender the 15,356-square-kilometer Gambella block
earlier in 2001 after non-payment of the US$5 million bonus.
The National Oil Company of Kenya offers 14 blocks for direct negotiations.
Two blocks are being offered for bid by Algerian-Libyan Exploration
and Production Company (Alepco), a 50/50 joint venture between Sonatrach
and the National Oil Corporation of Libya.
The single Libyan block covers 9,703.22 square kilometers, while
the Algerian tract, known as Ghardaia, consist of three blocks covering
8,735 square kilometers. Application deadline is Oct. 20, with awards
the same day.
Open acreage, mainly onshore, is offered in the potentially prospective
basins of Majunga, Morondava and Ambilobe.
Following the cancellation of the PSCs held by Houston-based Xpronet
for blocks Mavony (64,500 square kilometers) and Rivomena (77,500
square kilometers), OMNIS is currently redesigning the acreage into
smaller blocks and plans to re-offer these for licensing.
Both blocks are located in the Mozambique Channel and may contain
a "significant, untested structural trend in the deep-water portion
of the blocks" at water depth of around 2,000 meters (July
Sao Tome & Principe-Nigeria JDZ
Bidding closes Oct. 18 for nine blocks covering 9,990 square kilometers
in the northern portion of the 34,580-square-kilometer joint development
The fiscal regime includes a minimum signature bonus of US$30 million
Eleven blocks -- six on the shelf and five in deep waters -- remain
open for negotiations.
Petrosen is promoting five onshore blocks in the Senegal Sedimentary
Basin. The main objective for the project will be the Paleozoic
that remains underexplored in the region.
The Petroleum Agency SA has redefined the two east coast Durban
Basin blocks into smaller units, which are expected to be offered
after a new study undertaken by Jebco is complete.
Companies are invited to bid for the three areas covering 16,775
square kilometers in the under-explored Albertine Graben that remain
A future offshore bid round is planned in which more than 100 blocks
are expected to be offered for exploration and development of the
Kazakh sector of the Caspian Sea. The blocks will be offered for
direct negotiations according to a timetable. Two types of licenses
will be offered: exploration for blocks with little data, and exploration
and development for blocks better explored.
Three of seven blocks first offered in 1997 are still available
for direct negotiation. They lie in the East Chu, Aksay and Isyk-Kol
The Aksay Basin block holds in-place reserves of over one billion
barrels; East Chu has 450 MMbo with 2.7 Bcf of gas, and the Issyk-Kul
block also has little over one billion barrels of oil.
"Russia continues to display a considerable list of planned auctions
and tenders," according to IHS. "This can be attributed largely
to the fact that no round has been completed for almost two years."
- East Siberia -- An auction date is awaited for the Talakanskoye
oil/gas field in Sakha Republic (Eastern Siberia). The auction
was originally scheduled for last December. Ten companies qualified
to pre-bid and are known to have submitted applications. The signature
bonus is estimated at more than US$300 million.
Eleven blocks have been approved by the Ministry of Natural Resources
of the Russian Federation, but full details of the tender have yet
to be issued.
- Timan Pechora -- The original plan was to offer 22 blocks in
the Barents Sea between 2002 and 2005 covering 70,600 square kilometers
and believed to be holding around 16.1 billion boe.
- Volga Urals -- A total of 49 blocks in the Saratov region have
been listed covering a total of 35,000 square kilometers. Also,
nine blocks with proven hydrocarbon reserves will be offered through
auctions and that exploratory licenses for the remaining 40 can
be issued without competition.
- West Siberia -- A bid round comprising 11 blocks in the southern
portion of the West Siberian Basin is open through Sept. 19. This
tender was originally planned for 2001 but it was delayed by the
government due to a total revision of already-issued licenses;
it is the first in the country for two years. Auction winners
will obtain combined licenses for exploration and production.
Seven fields remain available for direct negotiation, requiring
investment commitments of US$242 million.
The Danish Energy Agency has been assessing the licensing terms
and conditions of neighboring countries to see how to make the Danish
North Sea more competitive, with a licensing round in early 2004.
In a somewhat contrary move, Parliament is reportedly looking into
the system to see how the government can get a larger share.
The Second International Licensing Round, initially scheduled for
2001, then in late 2002, was postponed again due to the proposed
partial privatization of Hellenic Petroleum. Following the rejection
of Lukoils offer for a 23 percent stake, developments concerning
the bid round are not expected until late 2003.
Authorities keep an open door for companies that are interested
in obtaining non-exclusive licenses for prospecting, and do not,
at present, grant exclusive licenses of any kind.
Two hundred forty-one blocks divided into four branches are available
in the Porcupine Basin at six-monthly intervals between through
Oct. 15, 2004.
The Ministry of Petroleum and Energy announced in May that it is
changing the licensing system in order to stimulate exploration
in mature parts of the Norwegian continental shelf. Starting in
2004 companies can annually apply for new predefined licenses from
Jan. 1 to Oct. 1. The ministry will process the applications and
award licenses by the end of the year.
As for the current 2003 licensing round, 143 blocks or parts of
blocks have been made available in the North Sea and Haltenbanken.
The deadline for the submission of new applications is Oct. 1, with
the awards planned for December.
A fifth national licensing round offering three exploration blocks
and a total of 29 oil and gas fields relinquished by Petrom SA and
eight gas fields relinquished by Romgaz SA are offered. Bids are
due in September.
FAR EAST/PACIFIC RIM TOP
Closing is Sept. 25 for 35 offshore areas comprising 160,169 square
kilometers. The areas are situated in the offshore sectors of five
states, with no acreage being offered in either New South Wales
The Carnarvon and Bonaparte basins together account for 18 of the
areas on offer; the Otway Basin is omitted from this year's release.
Four state governments have together re-released 23 of the 41 bid-areas
originally offered in the 2002 Federal Offshore Acreage Release.
Seven of the areas are within the Northern Territory's coastal waters,
six in South Australia, eight are located in Western Australia and
Tasmania accounts for two.
The closing date for applications is Sept. 25, the same date as
for the current 2003 Federal Release.
The Western Australian Department of Industry and Resources has
opened up six areas for bidding, four in coastal water areas plus
two onshore areas. Applications for the areas have to be submitted
by Sept. 18, with each judged on a competitive work program bid
basis. The first two years of the stipulated work program must be
completed without variation.
Bidding rounds have not been the Chinese state companies' preferred
form of acreage marketing. Consequently, many international companies
familiar with the Chinese procedures have initiated bilateral negotiations
CNOOC announced on June 6 it was offering 10 offshore blocks for
bids -- four in the East China Sea, three in the Pearl River Mouth
Basin (PRMB) and three in the Beibu Gulf.
CNOOC also has opened one area in the South Yellow Sea and another
in the PRMB.
Meanwhile, CNOOC indicated it is still accepting applications for
the remaining 11 deepwater blocks in the South China Sea that were
announced last September, covering 76,000 square kilometers in 300-to-2,000
meters of water and covered by 2-D seismic data.
Twenty-four blocks have been offered for competitive bidding --
12 deepwater, 11 onshore and one shallow water block -- with the
licensing round scheduled to close on Sept. 30.
Eleven blocks (six deep water and five onshore) are being offered
for the first time, with the remaining 13 blocks being re-offered
with new/reprocessed/re-interpreted seismic.
Nine is the latest count on blocks to be offered by Migas at a
fourth round in September or October. Reportedly, Migas is also
considering opening one more block to the north of Madura due to
industry interest. The Natuna block could include acreage formerly
disputed between Indonesia and Vietnam due to overlapping boundary
claims. A boundary settlement was reported imminent in early July.
Meanwhile, the third round is offering 11 blocks for Production
Sharing Contracts (as opposed to the 23 blocks originally planned).
Eight blocks are located offshore central and eastern Java, two
in the Jambi Province of South Sumatra and one in the Tarakan Basin
of northeastern Kalimantan.
The Deepwater Taranaki Basin bid-round of five large blocks covered
by 6,200 kilometers of 2-D spec seismic survey shot by TGS Nopec
closes on Sept. 30.
The North Taranaki Basin bid-round comprising 17 blocks (nine offshore
and eight onshore) closes Oct. 31. The nine offshore blocks cover
12,180 square kilometers. Water depths range from 50-to-200 meters.
The area is bound by the Pohokura gas field, currently being considered
for development, plus the Tui 1 and Karewa 1 discovery wells.
The First Philippine Petroleum Public Contracting Round was held
in early August with 46 blocks in the offering. The offering was
a significant departure from the countrys previous "first-come,
first-served" basis of contract award.
South Korea welcomes exploration iniatives in any of its seven
open blocks offshore. Not open for foreign participation is a block
southeast of the Korean Peninsula, where KNOC's Gorae V gas field
has been discovered, South Korea's first commercial discovery estimated
to contain 200-300 Bcf of gas.
Up to seven similar structures are said to be located adjacent
to the Gorae V.
LATIN AMERICA TOP
Thirteen companies are reported to have bought data packages for
its upcoming Round 5. The tentative schedule at last report was
a deadline for bid offers in August; contract signatures in November.
The ANP indicated it will move to twice yearly bid rounds with
the ANP round 6, tentatively scheduled for February and believed
by many to be the more attractive round as it may include some of
the Petrobras Round 0 acreage.
State oil company ENAP is looking for partners to rehabilitate
21 of its largest fields.
Ecopetrol continues to offer offshore "frontier areas" available
for the Association Contact model. Formerly referred to as blocks,
companies interested in this open acreage may design their own block
outline for areas they are willing to negotiate.
As reported in 2001, the seven mostly adjacent areas could hold
reserve potential of up to 28 Tcf of gas and three billion barrels
of oil. Interested companies can apply to negotiate block boundaries
that will be established according to the program developed for
Cubapetroleo continues to offer production sharing contracts for
acreage in its sector of the eastern Gulf of Mexico, Yucatan Channel,
Caribbean Sea and the western Straits of Florida. The Cuban offshore
consists of 112,000 square kilometers divided into 59 blocks, 10
of which are currently contracted.
New production licenses on all acreage not already covered by an
existing or relinquished production license under the open door
system with certain exceptions. Excluded from open door licensing
are environmentally sensitive areas, areas within 19 kilometers
of the coastlines of the Falkland Islands and the Special Cooperation
Area (SCA) with Argentina located southwest of the Falkland Islands.
Within these limits, the applicant is free to determine the size
and shape of the area for which it will bid. There is no limit to
the number of licenses (each of up to 30 blocks) that can be applied
for by an applicant at any time.
Bids are opened on the last working day of each month.
The French Ministere de I'Industrie has an open system for licensing
oil and gas rights in French Guiana.
All of the acreage on the Guyana side of the onshore Takutu Basin
is available for licensing.
Pemex has reportedly delayed the official publication of its Multiple
Services Contracts (MSC) bid round until after July elections, under
the assumption the PRI will regain its majority in congress. If
not, PRI could call off the bid round.
All open areas in Paraguay are available for negotiation.
Government oil company Staatsolie has outlined an offering of 19
offshore exploration blocks, with the bid round in the third quarter
and awards in 2004.
The 2003-04 acreage offer follows an offering seven shallow water
blocks that attracted no offers. These same seven blocks are now
included in the 19 blocks currently being offered.
Seismic contractor WesternGeco shot approximately 4,500 kilometers
of 2-D data and 600 kilometers of OBC data in 2001. The U.S. Geological
Survey has estimated an ultimate oil potential of some 15 billion
bo in-place. To date, only 170 million bo have been discovered.
Since March 1994, companies have been invited to register and bid
for acreage on the last working day of every quarter. To date, no
applications have been filed.
PDVSA says it will re-offer two of the three remaining blocks in
Plataforma Deltana before the end of 2003. Blocks 3 and 5 will be
re-offered with additional acreage in order to increase their exploration
PDVSA is already in negotiations with BP in Block 1 to do a cross-border
reservoir study of the Kapok and Dorado fields for future unitization.
Meanwhile, the Venezuela government is talking about future upstream
opportunities for private investment in Venezuela's offshore areas
of the Atlantic and Caribbean continental shelf, the onshore Maracaibo
Basin and in eastern Venezuela. Onshore western Venezuela exploration
areas that will be open for private sector development are the Franquera,
Horcon, Domo Norte, Domo Sur, Guarani, Sur del Lago and Ceuta-Tomoporo
In the eastern part of the country, development opportunities will
include the Capiricual and Pato fields.
MIDDLE EAST TOP
On March 5, 2003 Petropars confirmed that another eight phases
of the South Pars Project would be put to tender during the new
Iranian calendar year that started on March 21. The company estimates
that another US$8 billion will be spent on the expansion of the
South Pars gas field. Ten phases already have been allocated out
of 12 offered so far, in a project that currently envisages over
It is estimated that each phase will require an initial investment
of US$1 billion. Participation will be made in the form of buy-back
The West and East Safawi blocks, the North and South Sirhan blocks,
South Jordan, Northern Highlands, Al Jafr and Azraq blocks are all
open to application from foreign companies.
According to Spectrum Energy, which signed a five-year agreement
in 2002, the government is preparing an offshore licensing round
assistance and for offshore boundary delineation.