Cairn gears up for 800-sq km 3D survey in Palar Basin

Vol 12, PW 26 (04 Jun 09) Exploration & Production

Many Indian geologists will tell you the unexplored Palar Basin off the tip of southern India is not worth it.

But geologists at Cairn India are determined to prove the cynics wrong! Later today (Thursday, June 4) up to half a dozen seismic contractors will submit Expressions of Interest (EoIs) for a proposed 800-sq km 3D survey of NELP-VI exploration block PR-OSN-2004/1, where operator Cairn holds 35% alongside ONGC (35%) and Mumbai-based Tata Petrodyne (30%). Block PR-OSN-2004/1 has been regularly offered since NELP-I with little or no interest, until Cairn snapped it up in NELP-VI after spotting something clearly overlooked by others.

Still, that’s of no concern to seismic contractors, desperate for work wherever they can find it. PGS, Fugro, WesternGeco, CGG and Scan Geophysical are among those believed to have submitted EoIs for the survey, which Cairn wants to start at the end of the year or early next year (2010).

Some contractors tell us Cairn should commission a bathymetry study of the block because some of the proposed 800-sq km survey sits in water depths of five metres. “At some places the depth is even four metres,â€‌ we hear.

“Most seismic companies don’t like to go below 15 metres. The entire seabed within the block needs to be 100% mapped.

â€‌ Water depths extend to 80 metres elsewhere in the 9417-sq km block. Boat availability for the 800-sq km acquisition programme “should not be a problemâ€‌ because the “situation is much better than last year,â€‌ say contractors contacted by this report.

Whoever wins the seismic contract is likely to deploy one boat using four or six streamers and complete the job in three months. Add another eight months for processing and interpretation of the data and the first of the three-well four-year Phase-I work commitment is unlikely to be drilled before the rains in 2010.