Aussie independent to lead Omani exploration push

Novus Australia Energy Co. Pty. Ltd., Sydney, and partners were awarded an exploration license for Block 17 in Oman, which covers 3,200 sq km of onshore and offshore territory.

The block lies alongside the offshore Block 8 tract, which contains the Bukha field for which Novus has signed a new sales contract for sale of LPG to a company in Ras Al Khaimah, UAE.

Block 17 interest holders are Novus 40%, Atlantis Holding Norway AS 50%, and the Eagle Energy (Oman) Ltd. unit of Heritage Oil Corp., Calgary, 10%.

Heritage said the concession comprises two areas: the onshore Musandam Peninsula and surrounding offshore territory up to a 3-mile limit; and the onshore Madha area

The Block 17 partners committed to acquire 220 line km of 2-D seismic data and re-process almost 1,200 line km of existing data, as well as undertake various technical studies during the first 3-year exploration term.

Depending on this work the partners could drill a well during the first 3 years at their own discretion. The group has "...identified a number of highly prospective structures within Block 17, which appear analogous to the nearby Bukha gas-condensate field and West Bukha/Hengam discovery, both on Block 8. The partners initially intend to focus their activities on further defining these prospects."

Meanwhile, Bukha field production amounts to about 3,500 b/d of condensate and LPG and 40 MMcfd; interest holders are operator Novus 40%, Heritage 10%, and LG International of Korea 50%.

Heritage said the new sales contract will brings the group an income 12% higher than the previous LPG sales contract, which was with a company based in Dubai.

New projects

National Petroleum Refiners of South Africa let contract for an undisclosed sum to Foster Wheeler South (Pty.) Ltd. to undertake basic engineering for the expansion of its Sasolburg refinery, 60 miles from Johannesburg. NATREF, owned 63.6% by Sasol Ltd. and 36.4 by Total Fina SA, aims to boost products output to 105,000 b/d from 86,000 b/d. The expansion is expected to cost $120 million and will involve upgrading 14 process units. Basic engineering is slated for completion by March 2000 with a view to project completion by May 2002.

Enterprise Oil Norge Ltd. announced the completion of a well which appraised the Skarv discovery on Block 6507/5 in the Norwegian Sea. Enterprise said the 6507/5-2 well was drilled in 347 m of water with the West Alpha semisubmersible to a vertical depth of 3,877 m, terminal in an early Jurassic horizon.

The well discovered gas pay and was said to have confirmed the extent of hydrocarbons in the drilled section of the Skarv structure. The company said the well was not tested because enough data was collected through coring and open-hole logging.

The In Salah Gas joint venture of BP Amoco PLC and Algerian state firm Sonatrach let three contracts for development of the In Salah gas fields in the Sahara desert. The fields are being developed under a $3.5 billion program to produce and deliver 9-11 billion cu m/year of gas to Southern Europe from 2003 (OGJ, Dec. 25, 1995, p. 26).

The JV announced two design and construction awards: provision of all field facilities to a consortium of JGC Corp. Yokahama, M.W. Kellogg Co., Houston, and the Brown & Root unit of Halliburton Co., Dallas; and in-field and export pipelines to Bechtel Corp., Houston. A drilling contract was let to the DECO consortium of local firm ENTP and Deutag AG, Bad Bentheim, Germany.

Shell Eastern Petroleum (Pte.) Ltd. and BASF South East Asia signed an agreement to establish a 50:50 manufacturing joint venture, Basell Eastern (Pte.) Ltd.

The JV will build a plant at Seraya, Singapore, to produce up to 550,000 metric tons/year of styrene monomer and 250,000 metric tons/year of propylene oxide. The plant is scheduled for start-up in the second half of 2002.

The new complex will be integrated with existing facilities in Seraya, where a parallel project will see the construction of a second 110,000 tons/year PO conversion plant for Shell. Investment in the JV's plant and Shell's PO conversion unit will amount to $500 million.

Turkmenistan's Ministry of Oil & Gas let a 350 million Deutschemarks ($185 million) lump sum engineering, procurement, and construction contract to Technip SA, Paris, for a lube oil plant at Turkmenbashi refinery complex.

Work is scheduled for completion in April 2001, and will include revamping an existing 850,000 tons/year vacuum distillation unit and the construction of a new 80,000 tons/year lube unit and intermediate storage tanks. Technip is already building a 1.8 million tons/year catalytic cracker at the plant, which is expected to be completed in mid-2000

Project focus: Shell unveils bug process to remove sulfur from gas

Shell International Oil Products is looking to convince gas processors that a new bacteria-based sulfur removal process is as reliable as conventional methods.

The Shell-Paques Gas Desulfurization Process was conceived by small Dutch firm Paques Bio Systems BV, but the two companies have been working for the last 4 years to develop the technology.

The process uses naturally occurring thiobacillus bacteria to remove hydrogen sulfide from natural gas by converting it into sulfur. Shell has proved the process to the pilot stage, and is developing several types of bio-reactor in readiness for proving it on a commercial scale.

Currently the process is capable of producing up to 15 tonnes/day of sulfur, depending on concentration levels, in gases containing up to 80% H2S or in solutions containing up to 10 ppm.

A pilot plant built in Germany was proved up to a level of 20 kg/d sulfur output, but scaling up is reckoned to be simple because the process itself is relatively simple.

Paques has built five plants based on this process, which are working only at atmospheric pressure. Shell extended the technology to high pressure operations and has a number of potential applications in mind.

Shell recently licensed the Shell-Paques process to New Paradigm Gas Processing Ltd., a subsidiary of Canadian Chemical Reclaiming Ltd., Calgary, for applications in Canada.

CCR sees two main applications in Canada: the removal of H2S from flare gas; and the removal of H2S from gas wells that are currently stranded because of the high cost of H2S removal.

The company is "at an advanced stage of preparations" for application of the process at a gas processing plant in Holland and at a refinery in Egypt, and planned to announce the first commercial project within 1 month.

Shell's work so far has convinced it that the process has an H2S removal efficiency from natural gas streams of more than 99.9%, which compares with the current state-of-the-art.

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