Total Drills Duster Offshore Pakistan

A consortium led by Total failed to find any commercially viable hydrocarbons in the first well it drilled in block G offshore Pakistan, one of the consortium partners said Thursday.

"The results are not totally negative, but technically it is a dry well," Najam K. Hyder, managing director of Oil & Gas Development Corp. told Dow Jones Newswires.

The Total-led consortium, which includes Malaysia's Petronas, Austria's OMV, Pakistan's OGDC and Mari Gas Co., has invested around $30 million in its first ultra deep well in block G, located some 300 kilometers from the city of Karachi.

Pakistan signed an offshore oil exploration deal with Total in July 2003 for two blocks, which cover a combined area of 15,000 square kilometers.

Hyder said the initial results show a "petroleum system" is present in the area.

"There are some encouraging signs. We will study these initial findings and then decide about the future course of action," he said.

He said the technical experts of the consortium are expected to meet in France this month to discuss the findings.

Pakistan last year also awarded an offshore drilling contract to a multilateral consortium led by Royal Dutch/Shell Group (RD). Government officials say Shell has completed a seismic survey at the offshore Indus basin, located 150 kilometers south of the southern city of Karachi, and will soon decide on drilling.

Premier Oil Pakistan and Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration are also part of the Shell-led consortium.

The Shell joint venture partners are expected to invest a total of $12 million in the exploration phase.

Pakistan currently imports around 85% of its oil needs, and so far oil exploration has mainly been concentrated onshore.