Another Duster Reported in the Caspian Sea

The first well at the Absheron gas field in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea has been plugged after failing to find commercially significant reserves. A very think layer of hydrocarbons was found near the bottom of the well, however it was not commercially viable.

SOCAR estimated that the Absheron block contained up to three trillion cubic meters of gas - possibly more than the major Shakh Deniz field. SOCAR complained that the exploratory well was drilled too far from the center of the structure, a claim denied by Chevron, operator of the project with a 30 percent stake.

Absheron partners are obligated to drill a second well according to their production sharing agreement. But there will be no further drilling until construction of a new semisubmersible deepwater rig is completed in late 2003. A commercial and relatively significant field could still exist there, but not on the scale of Shakh Deniz.

Earlier this month ExxonMobil decided to abandon drilling at the Oguz concession after reporting a dry well. That followed other drilling failures this year by Agip and TotalFinaElf in the Azeri sector of the Caspian Sea. TotalFinaElf has a 20 percent stake in the Absheron block while SOCAR holds the remaining 50 percent.