Arunachal clears the way for Geopetrol to start work

Vol 9, PW 22 (23 Feb 06) Exploration & Production

Arunachal Pradesh, in Indias rugged northeast, has cleared the way for operator Geopetrol of France to begin exploration at NELP-V block AA-ONN-2003/2.

Geopetrol received the all-important Petroleum Exploration Licence from state authorities on 16th February and environmental clearance a day before on 15th February. This must be one of the fastest awards of a PEL ever in the northeast, reveals a source.

PEL approval in this region is typically very slow but Geopetrol submitted its application less than two months ago on 23rd December. Credit for this goes to Arunachal chief minister Gegon Apang who enjoys good relations with the consortium of Geopetrol (30%), Canoro Resources of Canada (30%) and NTPC (40%).

Apang, it seems, wants to see overseas exploration dollars flow into this vastly unexplored frontier state - parts of which are under Chinese occupation following a border clash in 1962. With the PEL in hand, Geopetrol can begin its Phase-I commitment to acquire 200-km 2D, 100-sq km 3D and drill seven wells.

Under scrutiny are offers from four seismic contractors who submitted expressions of interest on 23rd January. Geopetrol hopes to select a winner and begin mobilisation within two weeks to shoot 2D before the weather window ends in June.

3D acquisition will begin at the start of the next weather window in October and the first exploration well is planned for early next year. Geophysical, geochemical and geo-microbiological surveys are also planned before June this year, time permitting.

Given the rugged nature of the terrain, consortium partners might use helicopters to ferry rigs to drill sites. Our biggest fear is if seismic shows the best drilling location on top of a mountain, we hear.

Cost will determine whether we hire helirigs or not. Only limited data about AA-ONN-2003/2 is available making estimates about in-place oil unwise.

Still, consortium partners are encouraged by its proximity to the Kharsang field 3-km away where over the last year Geopetrol has doubled production from 750 b/d to 1500 b/d following a five-well development programme.