Black Sea attracts international interest
More exploration on the horizon
The Black Sea is seeing renewed interest from international exploration companies, and more exploration drilling is on the horizon.
The Black Sea has been poorly explored to date, and success in the region has been limited. In recent months, however, a number of international companies have shown renewed interest, and plans are in place to drill several key exploration wells in the near future.
The Black Sea lies northeast of the Mediterranean Sea in waters belonging to Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, and Turkey. Bounded by areas affected mainly by Tertiary compressive deformation, the sea is composed of two extensional basins, the western and eastern Black seas, which are separated by the Mid Black Sea High. The two rifts have coalesced in their post-rift phases to form the present single depocenter.
From the Late Eocene onward, the post-rift Black Sea basins underwent compression at their southern, northern, and eastern margins, associated with the closure of the Tethyan Ocean system. The region saw the most intense compression in the Oligocene, but the phenomenon continues today.
The Black Sea plays an important role for hydrocarbon transits in the region. Nearly a third of the Russian oil exports, about half of the Kazakh exports, and all of the exports from Azerbaijan cross the Black Sea and the congested Bosporus Strait, a situation that should improve slightly with the opening of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline, which will transport Caspian oil overland to the Mediterranean. Since early 2003, Russia has also exported gas to Turkey through the submarine Blue Stream pipeline, which lies under the Black Sea.
Only nine wells have been drilled in the Turkish sector of the Black Sea. Madison Oil Turkey Inc. (parent Toreador Resources), spudded a tenth in early May. Madison operates 14 coastal blocks, though its work focuses around its Ayazli 1 gas discovery and the surrounding South Akcakoca sub-basin, where 13 potential drilling locations and six prospects have been identified. The six prospects have a reserve potential-per-prospect ranging from 100 bcf to 1 tcf.
BP expected to spud its first exploration well, Hopa HPX 1, in June. Hopa HPX1 lies in water depths ranging from 1,500 m to 2,000 m, and was to reach an approximate 4,600 m TD. The well is in block 3534 and marks the first well drilled in deepwater since Arco’s two Limankoy wells, which were P&A’d with gas shows in 1999.
In 2004, Turkish state company TPAO shot more than 15,000 km of 2D seismic data and a 3D seismic survey covering 205 sq km of its blocks. Unfortunately, the re-award in June 2004 of TPAO’s deepwater blocks caused controversy. Madison was among the most notable challengers, despite the fact that Madison is partnered with TPAO in eight of its blocks. The dispute arose after TPAO re-awarded the licences three months after dropping them. Turkish law prohibits a company from re-applying for the same licence within 12 months of its being relinquished. Despite the questionable re-award, TPAO remains operator of the blocks.