Romania Black Sea Exploration - The Opening of a New Deepwater Frontier

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)
Tristan Aspray, VP Europe, Russia, Caspian ExxonMobil

Tristan Aspray
Tristan Aspray
ExxonMobil has been exploring in the Romanian sector of the Black Sea since 2008, with our partner, OMV Petrom. After acquisition of a 3D seismic survey in 2009, we drilled the Domino-1 gas discovery in 2012. This was the first deepwater discovery anywhere in the Black Sea. This discovery was followed by acquisiiton of a second 3D survey, the largest that had ever been acquired in the Black Sea at that time. The results of the first well and both 3D surveys were then used to plan an extensive drilling program to appraise the Domino discovery and conduct further exploration in the block. Deepwater drilling in the Black Sea is complicated by the need to bring rigs through the Bosphorus Straits, where they have to pass under two bridges. Beginning in early 2014, we undertook a complex rig mobilization involving removal of the derrick and cranes to allow the rig to enter the Black Sea, followed by reinstallation at the Romanian port of Constanta. Between June 2014 and January 2016 we drilled seven wells, which provided additional information on the Domino discovery, and evaluated multiple exploration plays, encountering gas at several other prospects. The prospective Tertiary deepwater clastic system exhibits multiple facies types which have been calibrated to the seismic data. The drilling operation was supported by our Bucharest Venture Office, which co-ordinated an extensive surveying program to prepare for each exploration well. Studies are now underway to determine the commercial viability of the discoveries.


Trıstan joined Esso Exploration and Productıon UK Limited in 1994 as a Petroleum Geologist, workıng on Central North Sea fields. In subsequent assignments he has worked on exploration and development projects in a variety of areas, including the Gulf of Mexico, Libya, Egypt, Vietnam and Russia. In 2008 he became an Upstream Advisor to ExxonMobil's Management Committee in Dallas, Texas. Tristan was then seconded into XTO Energy, a major producer of unconventional gas in the United States which was acquired by ExxonMobil in 2010. In September 2011 he moved back to the United Kingdom to take on the role of Europe Exploration Operations Manager, in which his portfolio ranged from onshore shale gas in Germany and Poland to deep water gas exploration in the Romanian Black Sea.

Tristan became Vice President of Business Development, ExxonMobil Exploration Company, in May 2014 and in July 2015 moved to his current position of Vice President of Europe/Russia/Caspian, ExxonMobil Exploration Company. He is married with one son, and his interests include hiking, kayaking, history, cycling and wildlife photography.

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