SK Spearheads Overseas Oil Projects

SK Corp., South Korea's biggest oil refiner, will firm up overseas projects for oil exploration and production this year as part of efforts to achieve its goal of becoming a dominant energy giant producing 100,000 barrels of oil abroad a day by 2010.

If this goal is achieved, the company expects it will achieve half of the oil independency target of 10 percent, which the government has set for 2010.

Despite the year-long dispute with its Monaco-based major foreign shareholder, Sovereign Asset Management, over the company's managerial rights, SK Corp., the de facto holding company of SK Group, has pushed the overseas oil projects, seeing sizable results in the field in 2004.

"The expansion of oil exploration and production is also aimed at raising the company's global presence in the sector," SK Corp. president Shin Heon-cheol said in his New Year's message.

As of now, the company is engaged in 26 overseas oil exploration and production projects in 11 countries, including Yemen, Egypt, Vietnam and Peru, according to company data.

Last year the company successfully started the commercial production of natural gas in the Camisea oil field in Peru and the NC-174 block in Libya, in which the company has invested with other partners.

As a result, it had secured some 300 million barrels of crude oil, about half of the nation's annual oil consumption as of the end of 2004.

The company is ranked 30th among 200 oil explorers in U.S. It aims to enter the top 20 by 2010.

In addition, daily oil production in overseas oil fields in which SK Corp. holds shares reached 24,000 barrels a day last year.

The company's operating profit in the exploration and production sector is expected to have hit 210 billion won in 2004, outdoing the projection of 158.7 billion won made early last year.

The better-than-expected business growth can also be attributed to last year's soaring oil prices.

The company said it will pursue oil and gas exploration projects in the Caspian Sea this year and look more toward energy projects in China.

"The company set up the Resource & International (RI) division to oversee all overseas businesses from the beginning of this year to further develop lucrative energy exploration and production projects overseas," an official said.