Statoil Plans Zafar-Mashal Exploration for Caspian in 2016-2017

Statoil ASA aims to sign a deal soon with State Oil Co. of Azerbaijan for the Zafar-Mashal block in the Caspian Sea and begin exploration in 2016 or 2017.

Exploration at Zafar-Mashal will depend on availability of drilling rigs, Nick Maden, Statoil’s senior vice president for international exploration, said today in the Azeri capital of Baku. New rigs planned by Socar, as the country’s state oil company is known, will speed up the process, Maden said.

Socar and Statoil signed a memorandum of understanding in April to explore and develop Zafar-Mashal, seven years after Exxon Mobil Corp. and ConocoPhillips withdrew from the deepwater block about 75 miles (120 kilometers) southeast of Baku. Socar estimates the block holds 300 billion cubic meters of natural gas and 37 million metric tons of condensate, or light oil.

Socar yesterday agreed with Singapore-based Keppel Corp. to build a modern drilling rig at an estimated cost of more than $1 billion. The companies are also in talks on a second rig to be built at the same time, Socar President Rovnaq Abdullayev said. Azerbaijan needs two more rigs to explore and develop offshore fields including Babak, Umid, Absheron and Nakhchivan, he said.

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