Pakistan To Offer Five Offshore Blocks For Exploration

Pakistan plans to offer five more blocks for exploration in its efforts to lure companies to its unexplored offshore areas, a government official said Thursday.

"We are opening bids for these blocks by the end of this month," G.A. Sabri, director general of petroleum concessions at the Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Resources, told Dow Jones Newswires.

But industry sources said the government is unlikely to receive a big response, following a failed bid by a consortium led by French oil major Total S.A. (TOT) to find hydrocarbons in the first ultra deepwater well it drilled in block G offshore Pakistan.

A partner in the Total-led consortium earlier told Dow Jones Newswires that the well, which was drilled in July, didn't contain commercially viable hydrocarbons.

Sabri said the five blocks cover an area of 12,500 square kilometers and will be offered on a production-sharing basis with the government.

The government last year awarded offshore drilling contracts to multinational consortiums led by Royal Dutch/Shell Group (RD) and Total.

The Total-led consortium was awarded two blocks, which cover a combined area of 15,000 square kilometers and are located around 300 kilometers from Karachi, while the Shell-led consortium has one block in the offshore Indus basin, 150 kilometers south of Karachi.

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

The Total-led consortium, which comprises Malaysia's Petronas (PET.YY), Austria's OMV AG (OMV.VI) and Pakistan's OGDC and Mari Gas Co., has invested around $30 million in its first ultra deepwater well in block G.

Sabri said discussions were on with the Shell-led consortium to start drilling. The consortium has completed a seismic survey at the Indus basin. Premier-KUFPEC Pakistan B.V. and Kuwait Foreign Petroleum Exploration are also part of the Shell-led consortium. Shell officials earlier said they planned to invest $12 million for exploration activities in the block.