Turtles hit Relianceآ’s eastern offshore drilling plans

Vol 8, PW 4 (19 May 04) Exploration & Production

Endangered Olive Ridley marine turtles are blocking Reliances drilling plans at two of its eastern offshore exploration blocks.

PETROWATCH learns the environment ministry is blocking a Reliance application to begin drilling at NELP-I blocks NEC-OSN-97/2 and MN-DWN-98/2 because of the turtles. The environment ministry says the turtles pass through these blocks and is unwilling to give its clearance, an oil ministry source tells us.

Olive Ridley turtles migrate every year to lay eggs along a long stretch of the northern part of Indias eastern coast. Without environment ministry clearance, Reliance cannot begin drilling.

The oil ministry is sympathetic to Reliances predicament but can do little to help. The turtles usually go away in April and return in November.

Reliance could drill during this window. Our source suggests there could be more to the environment ministrys objection than turtles.

We have told the environment ministry to give them permission to drill in the non-turtle window. We feel there could be something more.

Unconfirmed reports suggest Reliance has already drilled at NEC-OS-97/2 using Transocean drillship Nordic Explorer without waiting for environment ministry permission. As usual, Reliance declines to comment.

In mid-April, the industry grapevine was abuzz with news that Reliance struck gas on the block. If true, Reliance risks trouble.

Around this time, Niko Resources Reliances 10% partner on the block disclosed that a 3D seismic programme, covering 1,800-sq km, or 12% of the block had been completed. Utilising the 3D seismic, several rollover anticlines at the Miocene level have been identified.

These structures are smaller than those in Block D-6 (KG-DWN-98/3) with potential reserves in the 1-2 trillion cubic feet range. At NEC-OSN-97/2, Reliance is committed to drilling seven exploration wells during the seven-year exploration period.

At MN-DWN-98/2, Reliance must drill six exploration wells.