BP Expects Approval for Development of Block 18 Soon

BP expects to receive the final approval from Sonangol to develop deepwater Block 18 within the next few months, according to industry sources. "BP and Sonangol are at the late stage of negotiating the sanction. We are hopeful that the sanction will be given in the next few months, perhaps even by the end of the year," the source said.

Sonangol's final approval is the trigger for BP the operator on the Block, to begin awarding important contracts for further development. BP has said it will take 36 to 39 months after approval before the first oil is produced, giving a production date of early 2007.

Block 18, which stretches for 35 kilometers and reaches depths of 1,200 to 1,500 meters, has total estimated reserves of around one billion barrels, making it potentially one of the biggest off Angola's coast.

The development, made up of six fields known collectively as Greater Plutonio, will be the first BP-operated development to come onstream in Angola and has a target production rate in excess of 200,000 barrels per day (bpd).

BP has already accepted tenders for the major contracts to drill, produce and store the oil, including a floating production storage and offtake (FPSO) facility, subsea production systems and umbilicals, flowlines and risers - the "piping and plumbing" for the operation.

The total investment, estimated at between $2 and $3 billion, will be split equally between BP and its partner, Shell. BP and Shell each have a 50 percent stake in the Block, while Sonangol is the concessionaire.