Tajikistan grants exploration license to Manas Petroleum

The government of Tajikistan has granted DWM Petroleum AG subsidiary Manas Petroleum Somon Corp. a license to explore in the Fergana basin.

Jul 13th, 2007

Eric Watkins
Senior Correspondent

LOS ANGELES, July 13 -- The government of Tajikistan has granted DWM Petroleum AG subsidiary Manas Petroleum Somon Corp. a license to explore in the Fergana basin. The award is the latest effort by the Tajik government to boost the country's domestic energy supplies.

In a statement, Manas said its license contains "a number of prospects and leads" determined by former Soviet Union seismic acquisition in the 1970s and 1980s. The license is in the Fergana basin, it said, where "the US Geological Survey estimates 3 billion bbl of recoverable oil is contained in the area's underthrust structures."

Manas's license is reportedly for exploration work in the Bobojon Ghafurov, Jabbor Rasulov, and Ghonchi districts of the Sughd region. In particular, Manas reportedly will explore the Obcha-i Qalacha and Navobod fields for oil and gas.

Impoverished Tajikistan, which relies on hydroelecticity for most of its power, has been hard-hit by an energy crisis this year. For lack of payment, it has several times over the past year had supplies of gas or electricity cut by neighboring suppliers, Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.

To overcome its energy shortage, the country's newly elected president, Emomali Rahmonov, last November vowed: "We will also step up geological prospecting, developing Tajikistan's vast coal reserves and gas and oil extraction."

Tajikistan has reserves of coal estimated at 4 billion tonnes, but output is just 70,000 tonnes/year. In May American firm AES, Russia's Unified Energy System (UES), Kazakhstan's KiTaKa, and a Chinese machinery company expressed interest in a project to develop the Fan Yagnob deposit in Sughd region and to construct a coal-fired electric power station there.

In April interest in Tajikistan's oil and gas potentials spiked when Tajik Energy Minister Jurabek Nurmahmadov said substantial reserves of oil and gas discovered in Afghanistan might be part of a trend leading into Tajikistan.

"For the time-being, this is just a theory, but in practice this is excellent news for us," Nurmahdov said of the Afghan discoveries.

Local media reported that exploration in Afghanistan's Balkh, Samangan, Konduz, Sheberghan, and Sar-e Pol provinces revealed oil reserves of 1.6 billion bbl in a Tajik-Afghan basin, along with 15.7 trillion cu m of gas reserves in the Amu Darya River basin.

Nurmahdov said, "If all this information is corroborated, then we simply need to prospect and extract gas in the territory of our country…because Afghan reserves are likely to have the same unified source with Tajik reserves in the south of the country."

Around the same time, OAO Gazprom Chief Executive Aleksey Miller visited Tajikistan for the second time in a year, saying that his firm hoped to find similar reserves. Barring such large discoveries, Miller said with "certainty" that "on the basis of information we possess, that the prospected reserves can completely meet all the country's needs."

Since then, Gazprom subsidiary Zarubezhneftegaz said it will start 2D seismic exploration work at the Rengan and Sargazon prospects in Tajikistan.

Gazprom was issued with a license to explore the Sargazon and Rengan prospects, with gas reserves estimated at 30 billion cu m and 35 billion cu m, respectively, on Dec 13, 2006. Over the next 5 years Gazprom said it plans to carry out exploration at the Rengan, Sargazon, Sarykamysh, and Western Shaambary fields.

In March Gazprom's Research Institute of Natural Gases and Gas Technologies (Vniigaz Ltd.), was said to be preparing a feasibility study for geological exploration and a gradual program for geological exploration work at the oil and gas prospects. The work is to include an evaluation of reserves and possible production volumes.

Meanwhile, in June Russia's OOO Ecowave Technology, which specializes in emergency protection for pipelines, has been contracted to perform diagnostic work on Tajikistan's pipeline systems—including oil and gas pipelines—in the fourth quarter.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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