Total says that drilling for oil and gas at an exploration block off Bulgaria's Black Sea coast will be delayed by at least six months.
SOFIA, Dec 16 (Reuters) – Drilling for oil and gas at an exploration block off Bulgaria's Black Sea coast will be delayed by at least six months until early 2016 following the fall in global oil prices, French oil firm Total said.
Total, operator of the offshore 1-21 Han Asparuh block, has cancelled tenders for drilling services in a decision agreed with its partners in the block, Austria's OMV and Spain's Repsol.
"Due to the significant and incessant decline in the prices of oil globally in the past months ... the companies unanimously decided to change the budget and the working schedule for 2015 and postpone the start of the drilling programme for 2016," the Bulgarian division of Total said in a note to the Bulgarian public procurement agency.
The tenders are likely to be reopened in the first quarter of 2015 with a view to the first drilling starting in the first quarter of 2016, said Arnaud Jaouen, a contract engineer at Total.
The initial drilling date for two exploration wells was the middle of 2015. The drilling of a deep water well is estimated to cost about 300 million euros ($376 million).
The 14,440 sq km Han Asparuh block is only 15 km from OMV's Neptun block in Romanian waters. The Austrian company said it could produce up to 84 billion cubic meters of gas, raising hopes in the Balkan country it could end its almost complete dependence on Russian gas.
The government has recently re-opened tenders for two smaller blocks off its Black Sea coast, intensifying efforts to ensure its energy security after Russia said it had scrapped its South Stream gas pipeline project.
($1 = 0.7988 euros)
(Reporting by Tsvetelia Tsolova; editing by David Clarke)
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