Marathon moves to make Kurdish debut

US INDEPENDENT Marathon Oil is preparing to test its first wildcat in Iraqi Kurdistan as it becomes the latest in an increasing list of international players to probe the semi-autonomous region’s oil and gas potential.

Marathon will finish work at the Harir-1 well in the Harir Block before moving the rig to a new location to drill a second well on the same acreage.

Harir-1 began drilling on 30 July and reached its target depth of 3800 metres this week.

Marathon is hunting for oil and gas potential in Mesozoic fractured carbonates with reservoir objectives in the Cretaceous, Jurassic and Triassic formations.

At the same time, the US independent is carrying out site preparations in the adjacent Safen Block to drill its first probe there.

Marathon has lined up a rig and this wildcat is set to spud in January.

The US company operates both blocks with a 45% stake and is partnered by France’s Total on 35% while the Kurdish government holds the remaining 20% interest.

Total will become the operator of any development on Safen.

Harir, which lies close to the Kurdish capital of Erbil, covers an area of about 700 square kilo-metres, while the smaller Safen asset extends over 420 square kilo-metres.

US supermajor Chevron, which entered Kurdistan last year by acquiring the stakes held in two blocks by India’s Reliance Industries, plans to start its own drilling programme late next year.

Chevron acquired an 80% interest and operatorship of the production sharing contracts covering the Rovi and Sarta blocks. Austria’s OMV has a 20% interest.

These assets — lying north of Erbil — cover a combined area of about 1120 square kilometres.

“We see Kurdistan as a really exciting opportunity,” said Donald MacDonald, president of Chevron in Kurdistan. “We are looking to be here for the long haul — for the next 40, 50 and 60 years.”

He said the blocks offered good potential, judging by the results of initial drilling carried out by Reliance.

“In essence, Reliance had discovered oil in both Rovi and Sarta. That is absolutely one of the big attractions. We have a programme lined up over the next few years to evaluate the true potential of the blocks,” MacDonald said.

The drilling of the two wells will start simultaneously.

The Iraqi government has blacklisted both Marathon and Chevron from bidding for work in other areas of Iraq outside the Kurdish region.

Exploration and development drilling in Kurdistan is at fever pitch despite assertions by the central government in Baghdad that deals signed between the international oil companies and the Kurdistan Regional Government are illegal.

Major companies have ignored Baghdad to move into Kurdistan in the past two years.

• PRIVATELY-held NewAge has drilled a dry hole in its Khalakan block in central Iraqi Kurdistan.

The well was completed recently and tested but failed to produce any hydrocarbons, industry sources said. NewAge is now preparing to drill a second well on the block, which lies 50 kilometres north of the giant Kirkuk field.

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