Uzbekistan begins exploring hydrocarbons in Aral Sea

5 November 2015 11:00 (UTC+04:00)

By Aynur Karimova

A consortium of investors has started drilling an exploratory well from atop the Meros drilling rig in the Aral Sea.

Lukoil Overseas reported that the new well, named Meros-1Ex, was seen in 3D-seismic surveys. The depth of the well has been placed at 3,280 meters.

Drilling works are being carried out by the Chinese contractor XIBU Drilling Engineering Company.

In May 2015, Uzbek President Islam Karimova signed a decree on approval of a program of measures on structural reforms, modernization and diversification of production in 2015-2019. The document said that Tashkent plans to start supplementary exploration and development of hydrocarbon fields in the Uzbek part of the Aral Sea in 2017.

According to this program, the initial cost of the project will amount to $300 million. Meanwhile, the exact cost of the project will be determined after the development of its feasibility study.

The project will be implemented by an international consortium consisting of the Uzbekneftegaz National Holding Company, Russian Lukoil and Chinese CNPC.

To implement the Aral project an international consortium was established in Uzbekistan in 2005, which included Uzbekneftegaz, Lukoil, CNPC, Malaysian Petronas and Korean KNOC with equal shares of 20 percent.

A production sharing agreement for the Aral block was signed in 2006 for 40 years and included two parts: exploration (a license for geological exploration works was issued to the operator - JV Aral Sea Operating Company for a term of five years) and the subsequent development of discovered hydrocarbon reserves with a validity of 35 years. The start date of the project was January 31, 2007.

In May 2011, Petronas withdrew from the consortium, and KNOC followed suit in September 2013. Currently, the share of Uzbekneftegaz in the consortium stands at 33.4 percent, CNPC and Lukoil Overseas (operator of international upstream-projects of Lukoil) - 33.3 percent.

The geological exploration works carried out at the initial stage resulted in the discovery of the new West Aral hydrocarbon field with estimated natural gas reserves in the amount of 11 billion cubic meters, and six prospective structures, four of which have been certified and prepared for deep drilling.

Currently, works on geological exploration in the contract area are at the final stage. Field works on the 3D-seismic survey were completed in March 2014.

It is planned to drill one exploration well this year and two dependent appraisal wells (including the results of seismic and exploratory drilling) in 2016.

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Aynur Karimova is AzerNews’ staff journalist, follow her on Twitter: @Aynur_Karimova

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