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New discoveries for BP and Total

PETROBRAS' upstream success might have stolen the limelight last month (p19), but BP and Total have also made two important oil and gas finds. BP's discovery of more natural gas in the Caspian Sea should confirm the company's optimism about the region's gas potential – and add impetus to Azerbaijan's hopes to become a significant exporter to Europe. While Total's latest discovery at the Mer Très Profonde Sud (MTPS) block provides further evidence of the prospectivity of ultra-deep waters offshore the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

BP says exploration and appraisal wells in the Shah Deniz field, in the Caspian Sea, had found a new "high-pressure reservoir" that could be a "potentially significant find". It could more than double gas output from the project: "Although further work is required to define this second phase, it will probably be similar, or larger than stage one," the major says. Shah Deniz' first stage is producing 8.6bn cubic metres a year (cm/y) of gas, most of which has been designated for export to Turkey through the South Caucasus Pipeline, which came on stream earlier this year.

The SDX-04 well was drilled to 7,300 metres, a record depth for the Caspian Sea, and identified the new structure beneath the existing, producing one, BP says. Shah Deniz lies 70 km southeast of Baku, in Azerbaijan's section of the Caspian Sea. "The SDX-04 well is a significant achievement and it justifies our plans for the next stage of development of the field," Bill Shrader, president of BP Azerbaijan, said last month.

The discovery of the gas-condensate-bearing structure will also help BP and its partners in the Shah Deniz development to better understand the rest of the gasfield, the Caspian's largest, says BP. In addition to the deeper discovery, the well also found gas condensate in horizons that are already producing, extending the field to the south. Test flows were at the maximum capacity of the on-board equipment of 1m cm/d.

If the new find yields as much gas as BP hopes, it could also be good news for Europe, which hopes to import Caspian gas through a new pipeline stretching from Azerbaijan through the Caucasus, Turkey and the Balkans to Central Europe. That pipeline, Nabucco, has struggled to find reserves to fill its planned capacity. While its developers have long hoped for new capacity from Shah Deniz, the latest discovery makes that prospect more realistic (see right).

Shareholders in Shah Deniz are: BP (operator and 25.5%), StatoilHydro (25.5%), Socar (10%), Lukoil (10%), Nico (10%), Total (10%) and TPAO (9%).

Meanwhile, Total says the Persée Nord Est Marine-1 discovery well, drilled to over 4,100 metres in water deeper than 2,100 metres, found six oil reservoir levels in the Miocene. The well is Total's fifth discovery in DRC's MTPS, which is 185 km offshore. The company says it confirms its strategy of "building an economically viable development cluster in this ultra-deep-water permit". Total has not yet said how much oil it has found in MTPS.

Shareholders are Total, operator and 40%, Eni, 30%, and ExxonMobil, 30%. Total says it will bring on stream DRC's first deep-water offshore field, Moho-Bilondo, in 2008. Production will plateau at 90,000 b/d.


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