Tough times for Tullow Oil in Bangladesh

Vol 7, PW 20 (17 Dec 03) Exploration & Production

Its not only in India that Tullow Oil of Ireland is having a tough time.

In Bangladesh too, the Irish explorer is having problems at Block 9, where it is operator. On 2nd December, John McKenna, Tullows Bangladesh country manager complained in a letter to authorities that obstructions from local individuals had forced the company to stop drilling preparations at Lalmai on Block 9.

Tullow wanted to begin a two-well drilling programme on Block 9 next month. Last month, Tullow began moving a drilling rig and other heavy equipment to Lalmai, site of the first well, only to find the roads dug up and roadblocks in place.

On 27th November, local authorities arrested (and continue to keep in jail) a Tullow employee for allegedly cutting down a tree. McKenna writes that the delay "will have significant consequences to the work programme agreed with the government, who have assured us of their fullest support." McKennas 2nd December letter reminds authorities that Tullows work programme has been severely hampered and forcibly stopped even though the company has all necessary approvals from (state-owned) Petrobangla, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources, the Ministry of Lands and the Department of Environment as well as the local MP.

McKenna notes that on 12th November Tullow paid compensation to the deputy commissioners office for 12.3 acres of land with trees on it and six days later received documents giving them title to the land ahead of drilling. "While many of the local community in the area have been very supportive of our programme, it has been brought to my attention that the majority of the problems in the area are now caused by a small number of individual owners who have, by their actions jeopardised the agreed work programme." Energy minister AKM Mosharraf Hossain blames the local deputy commissioner for Tullows troubles.

Hossain tells PETROWATCH he has intervened and that Tullow "has agreed to begin its drilling operation at Rasulpur (site of the second planned well) instead of at Lalmai.