Tyumen Oil Plans Exploration Program Offshore Sakhalin Island

Tyumen Oil plans to expand its resource base by exploring offshore Sakhalin Island. The company said it had recently acquired from the natural resources ministry an exploration license for a 3,500 sq km offshore block in the north of Sakhalin, and that it planned to invest $60 million over the next five years. "Tyumen is interested in expanding its resource base and Sakhalin is apparently the best of what is left in Russia," Tyumen's senior vice-president for upstream Igor Dibtsev said. The oil-rich shelf of Sakhalin has been explored so far mostly by Western giants because Russian companies have been lacking experience in the offshore oil business and funds to develop huge oilfields in very difficult weather conditions.

High oil prices are allowing Russian firms to boost output for the fourth straight year and they are actively looking for new regions, including Sakhalin, situated thousands of miles away from the traditional oil mother lode in Western Siberia. "Sakhalin is extremely interesting from a geographical point of view. The region has clear export orientation towards the countries of the Asia-Pacific region, where energy demand is constantly growing," Dibtsev said. He said the recently acquired Lopukhovsky block, situated between Sakhalin-4 and Sakhalin-5, could potentially yield 130 million tons (950 million barrels) of crude oil and 500 billion cubic meters of gas.

Tyumen plans seismic exploration in 2003 and will start drilling four 2.700 meter-deep exploration wells in 2004 in shallow waters of 50-100 meters. Dibtsev said Tyumen may invite foreign partners to join the project if exploration proves positive as full scale development could require up to $4 billion in investment.