ExxonMobil suspends offshore drilling near Karachi coast

Work stops as the company’s equipment needs repair

Salman Siddiqui March 09, 2019
Work stops as the company’s equipment needs repair. PHOTO: FILE

KARACHI: US oil and gas exploration firm ExxonMobil has temporarily suspended offshore drilling in ultra-deep waters near Karachi coast, it has been learnt.

Pakistan, with the help of ExxonMobil and Eni Pakistan Limited, had begun offshore drilling after a gap of nine years in January to find huge oil and gas deposits at an estimated cost of over $100 million.

They temporarily halted drilling as their equipment needed repair, Ministry of Maritime Affairs Adviser Mahmood Moulvi told Express TV. “The parts in question will be changed in the next two to three days and subsequently drilling will resume,” he said.

After nine years, offshore drilling begins in Karachi ultra-deep waters

The fault has delayed completion of drilling operations by at least one week. “The company was scheduled to submit a drilling result report on March 7. Now, it will submit the report after March 15,” he said.

The two companies began drilling Kekra-1 well in the Indus-G block on January 11, 2019, which is located 280 km from the Karachi coast.

“Eni Pakistan has estimated nine trillion cubic feet of gas deposits in the offshore well,” an official of the Ministry of Petroleum told The Express Tribune recently, adding that ExxonMobil expected the discovery of oil deposits there.

They undertook the task to drill around 5,800-metre-deep well in the sea for 60 days. For the purpose, ExxonMobil brought one major drilling ship, three supply vessels and two helicopters at the site.

Eni Pakistan is the operator of the block, while Exploration and Production Pakistan BV (EPP) was drilling the well. State-owned Oil and Gas Development Company (OGDC) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) are also part of the joint venture. Each of the four firms has 25% participating interest in the block.

ExxonMobil invited to start onshore exploration as well

The well was being drilled after a gap of almost nine years as the last exploratory well in an offshore block was drilled in January 2010.

“This is the 18th attempt to find hydrocarbons in deep waters in Pakistan,” the ministry official said. “Earlier, Pakistan drilled 17 times in deep sea. Wells were found either dry or not commercially viable to operate.”

Some of the surveyors have found the Indus-G block similar to the Indian offshore Mumbai High oilfield, which produces 350,000 barrels of crude oil per day (bpd) while some compare it with the wells producing hydrocarbons in the oil and gas-rich Kuwait.

ExxonMobil Corporation, through ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Pakistan BV (EPP), had acquired 25% participating interest in May 2018 in the offshore Indus-G block.

Pakistan meets around 15-20% of its energy needs through domestic oil and gas exploration and production while the rest is met through expensive imports.

Oil and gas imports cost Pakistan around one-fourth of the total import bill for a year. The country has emerged as one of the largest gas (liquefied natural gas) importers in the last couple of years globally.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 9th, 2019.

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