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Black Sea: Turkey and Romania assess their offshore potential

The oil and gas potential of the Black Sea is growing increasingly important for its littoral states. Dependent on Russian gas supply, Turkey and Romania are exploring and drilling offshore in the hope of increasing indigenous oil and gas reserves, and their energy security.

State-owned TPAO will begin drilling for gas in Turkey's western Black Sea waters, in partnership with Brazil's Petrobras, by the end of this year. Seismic surveys suggest that the area holds as much as 1.5 trillion cubic meters (cm) of gas – a significant amount for a country with proved reserves of only 9bn cm and that relies on Russia to meet nearly 64% of its gas-import requirement.

Additionally, the country's central and eastern Black Sea waters may hold oil, with TPAO saying surveys indicate large reserves, of up to 10bn barrels. The firm has joint exploration agreements with Petrobras and ExxonMobil for development of one block each in the central Black Sea region and hopes to begin drilling as soon as possible. However, the blocks are in deep water and any decision to drill depends on the investment programmes of the foreign partners, says TPAO chief executive officer (CEO) Mehmet Uysal.

TPAO is also looking to enrol Chevron in its Black Sea exploration programme. Assistant CEO Yurdal Oztas says TPAO has received proposals from a number of companies, but that talks with Chevron became more serious in January. He says the two companies will sign a preliminary agreement very soon, with full negotiations to be completed by the summer.

To the west, Romania's territorial waters are also likely to see increased exploration. Following the January settlement, at the International Court of Justice in The Hague (ICJ), of a decade-long maritime-border dispute between Romania and Ukraine, most of the hydrocarbons-rich northwestern Black Sea area was awarded to Romania. The country claims the 12,000 square-km area could hold reserves of more than 100bn cm of gas and more than 73m barrels of oil. In December, ExxonMobil signed an exploration agreement with Petrom – 51% owned by Austria's OMV – to run 3-D seismic acquisition and evaluation of deep-water portions of the Neptune block.

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