Santos 3D survey intercepted by Bangladeshi navy

Vol 12, PW 17 (29 Jan 09) People & Policy

Bangladesh and India would do well to resolve their boundary dispute in the Bay of Bengal before matters get out of hand.

PETROWATCH learns that in late December Bangladeshi naval patrol boats established radio contact with the captain of CGG-owned seismic acquisition vessel Symphony, which is shooting 4000-sq km 3D across Santos-operated Indian NELP-VI exploration blocks NEC-1 and NEC-2, parts of which allegedly lie in Bangladeshi territorial waters. No order was given to halt the survey, but the oral exchange was less than friendly.

“They asked what equipment we had on board; what we are doing there,â€‌ reports a source. “Then they made it clear we are operating in disputed waters.

â€‌ Could you see the Bangladeshi patrol boats “No, they were too far off.â€‌ Undeterred, Symphony continued to shoot 3D and has had no fresh encounter with the Bangladeshi navy since then.

By the middle of last week, the 120-metre long vessel trailing 12 streamers 100 metres apart, with 55 maritime and seismic crew members on board, had completed around 60% of the 4000-sq km survey, shooting around 90-sq km/day. “Bangladesh is not concerned about the seismic,â€‌ adds a source.

“They’re more concerned about drilling. Seismic doesn’t give you a true picture, but drilling can give you a discovery, and with a discovery there’s more at stake.

â€‌ Operator Santos with 100% in both blocks still has much to do before it begins drilling. By February 25, Symphony hopes to complete its initial mandate of 4000-sq km 3D but Santos has exercised an option to shoot an additional 1200-sq km, taking the survey up to March 20.

Then follows several months of processing and interpretation before it drills its one commitment well, towards the end of 2010, or before the Phase-I work programme ends in 2012. Can Dhaka and Delhi resolve the boundary dispute before then “Bangladesh and India have been talking about this for years,â€‌ we hear.

“It’s in the process of getting sorted out. Both countries want to maintain good relations.