Russians to Explore for Oil

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By Petronella Sibeene

WINDHOEK

A Russian oil drilling company, Sintezneftgaz, is expected to start drilling for oil in Block 1711 in the Namibe Basin early next year.

In an interview yesterday, Oil Commissioner, Immanuel Mulunga, said Sintezneftgaz is expected to start drilling in the first quarter of next year.

This will be the sixteenth oil well to be drilled since Namibia’s independence and the first since the Ministry of Mines and Energy declared an open licence system in 2005.

“Drilling is expected during the first quarter of next year. We believe by mid next year there will be good news for the country,” said the Oil Commissioner.

Offshore exploration star-ted off the Namibian coast in 1968 leading to Chevron’s discovery of the giant Kudu Gas Field in 1973.

Further exploration only took place after Namibia’s independence in 1990 and two years later, the first blocks for oil and gas exploration were awarded.

Of the wells drilled so far, Mulunga said, no oil was found but active petroleum substances were highly present.

General Representative of Sintezneftgaz Namibia Limited for Africa, Dr Valentin Khalin, was optimistic that his company will find what others have searched for in Namibia.

“We have 90 percent expectation to find oil or gas. No one can be 100 percent sure of what is under the surface of the earth,” he said through an interpreter.

He added that once the exploration is done, hopefully by June next year, the company is prepared to set up oil pumping and refinery infrastructure as well as transport network.

So far, the company has spent about US$8 million in its quest to find the much-wanted resource in Namibia.

Last year April, Namibia signed a four-year multi-million-dollar exploration deal with Sintezneftegaz to look for oil and gas along the country’s coastline.

The US$84 million (69 million euros) deal marked the Moscow-based company’s first venture into Africa, looking at an area off Namibia’s northern border with Angola, which is sub-Saharan Africa’s second largest oil producer.

Formerly held by the US-based Vanco Energy Company, oil specialists say Block 1711 is said to have potential to yield viable quantities of both oil and gas.

Sintezneftegaz will keep a 70 percent share in the Namibian venture, while sharing a 10 percent equity stake with South Africa’s national petroleum company PetroSA.

Recent months have seen the country award several gas and oil exploration licences, mainly offshore.

There are about 15 licence holders in oil exploration and drilling, Mulunga said.

Last week, a Croatian oil company, INA Industrija, announced it would commence its seismic survey in the Nama Basin.

The survey, Mulunga said, will ascertain the presence of oil in the area under study.

Initially, the company saw no need to conduct the seismic study but according to the Ministry of Mines and Energy, it is part of the requirements that such an exercise be carried out.

It is estimated that the survey will take two to three months.

The company will engage about 60 Namibians and 20 Croatians.

“After the study, they will interpret the results and decide on the best area to drill,” Mulunga said.

“The prospects are good. We are excited about the study and the drilling campaign,” said the Oil Commissioner.

The study will cost about US$30 million while drilling will cost about US$5 million.

The oil project is set to boost the country’s economy by bringing in foreign currency, Mulunga said. Namibia would also be able to build an oil refinery, something the country has long hoped for.

Namibia imports its oil and related products from other countries such as South Africa.

INA Industrija acquired its exploration licence two years ago and the licence was extended last month to allow the company to complete its initial programme.

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