Afghanistan claims 1.8 billion bbl oil field find

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Aug. 18 -- Afghanistan’s ministry of mining announced the discovery of an oil deposit in the northern region of the country, estimating reserves of 1.8 billion bbl.

A ministry spokesman said it is a “totally new oil deposit, which extends in a triangle between Balkh, Hairatan, and Shuburghan.”

The spokesman did not explain how the reserve estimate was made but said geologists would conduct further assessments over the next 6 months and the field would be tendered when they are finished.

Word of the new field follows an announcement in June that Afghanistan would begin an oil tender process in July or August aimed at attracting foreign investors.

“We are going to tender the Kashkari oil block in the northwest either in July or August,” said oil minister Wahidullah Shahrani. “After that, next year we will tender a large oil block in the Afghan Tajik basin, which is much bigger,” he said.

“Afghanistan is entering onto the world stage with regards to hydrocarbon extraction, and the major players are taking notice,” Wahidullah said, adding the country had 16 tcf of gas reserves and 600 million bbl of condensate.

Wahidullah’s figures are based on a 2006 study by the US Geological Survey that estimated Afghanistan’s mean undiscovered resources at 15.7 tcf of gas, 1.6 billion bbl of oil, and 562 million bbl of natural gas liquids (OGJ Online, Mar. 27, 2006).

However, large-scale investment in the country’s hydrocarbon sector generally has been discouraged by security concerns, and Afghanistan currently has no official oil production at all.

The ministry last year put the Kashkari oil block and two gas blocks up for tender, but the process was later abandoned, due in part to a shortage of bidders.

At the time it was reported any successful bidder would need “the stomach to operate in a landlocked country with sparse infrastructure and undergoing wartime conditions (OGJ Online, May 4, 2009).”

In June, however, Shahrani said safety in the mountainous north, where the bulk of known oil and gas reserves are located, is “pretty good” and much better than in other areas of the country.

That view was echoed with this week’s announcement of the new find. “It is an attractive area,” said the ministry spokesman, who added, “It is in one of the safest areas of the country.”

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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