Sri Lanka Delays Release of Seismic Data

Sri Lanka has delayed the release of seismic data from the country's northern seas until early next year, a Petroleum Ministry official said on Monday.

A Petroleum Resources Bill has yet to be enacted as President Chandrika Kumaratunga has to approve the transfer of authority over the bill from a non-existent petroleum resources minister to the minister of power and energy. "The workshop looks like it will be early next year," the official said.

Sri Lanka's government has said it wants foreign oil companies to bid for oil blocks in the Cauvery Basin and the Gulf of Mannar Basin. But moves towards oil exploration will depend on whether the government and Tamil Tiger rebels close a deal to end a 20-year ethnic war. The rebels want control in the island's north and east. Sri Lanka drilled for oil more than 20 years ago but did not find oil and the government is not able to bear the cost of further drilling.

The island imports all its crude oil requirement of about 15 million barrels a year and has a refining capacity of 2.2 million ton.