Premier Oil gets 11 months extension at CR-ON-90/1

Vol 7, PW 15 (08 Oct 03) Exploration & Production

Premier Oil's faith in the prospectivity of India's troubled and geologically challenging northeastern region has received a well-deserved boost from the Indian oil ministry.

In the last week of September, the ministry agreed to Premier's request for an 11-month extension to the 'Phase-I' exploration period for block CR-ON-90/1 in Assam. 'Phase-I' ended on 13th July and will now run till 12th June 2004.

With approval in hand, Premier can now proceed with work to acquire, process and interpret 200-km 2D committed during 'Phase-I'. Fully supportive, the DGH has agreed to Premier's request for an extension with the following justification: shooting 2D seismic in, "the very difficult Cachar region of Assam state" will take at least eight months and, "it is commendable that a company of the size and experience of Premier Oil" has started operating in this region when most Indian companies "shy away from making investments" in the northeast.

More, officials are impressed that Premier was not sitting idle waiting to be formally designated operator. "They have been continuously helping the earlier operator Essar Oil at their own cost and have prepared six detailed technical reports on the key elements of the geology and prospectivity of this block as well as its structural and tectonic history." All this has left a favourable impression with the DGH and the ministry.

Premier's recognised expertise in exploring 'thrust belt regions' also played to its advantage. "The entire north-eastern region, including Assam, is covered by major 'thrust belts'." Had Premier's request gone unanswered, prospects for this block would have been bleak.

"This block would have had to be put up for bidding during NELP-V. There would be no guarantee that a block in this region would receive any bids at all.

It would have taken a new company at least two years to reach the level of work that Premier has put in till now." An industry source tells us Premier is upbeat about finding both oil and gas in this block. "The block lies in the southern part of Assam bordering that part of Bangladesh which has large gasfields." Also near CR-ON-90/1 is the ONGC producingBadarpur oilfield.