India’s state-owned ONGC Videsh has plans to drill two wildcats off Bangladesh after the host government recently further extended the exploration term for production sharing contracts at blocks SS-04 and SS-09.

The two shallow-water wells are scheduled to be drilled from October 2021 after next year’s monsoon season.

The probes, targeting the Titly and Moitree prospects, are in an area where ONGC Videsh has already performed part of a geohazard survey, according to the Financial Express newspaper.

The operator now has until February 2023 to drill the two wells after the Bangladesh authorities again extended by the blocks' exploration terms.

ONGC Videsh is expected to soon launch the tender for a drilling contractor for the offshore wildcats.

Also, still on the cards is the delayed Kanchan probe on the small onshore part of the SS-04 PSC.

The Bangladesh authorities had given the green light for the Kanchan probe but a tax dispute and issues over demurrage for imported equipment put paid to ONCG Videsh's original plan to drill after the 2018 monsoon season.

The operator subsequently intended to start drilling earlier this year but the coronavirus pandemic scuppered these plans.

Hope for offshore scene

ONCG Videsh’s move to drill the Titly and Moitree prospects comes after 2D seismic surveying indicated their potential. There is currently no offshore exploration in Bangladesh’s offshore waters.

National oil company Petrobangla had earlier extended by 24 months until February 2021 the PSCs for shallow-water blocks SS-04 and SS-09, which were awarded to ONGC Videsh in 2014.

ONGC Videsh has a 45% operated stake in the assets and its partners are compatriot Oil India Limited, also with 45% equity, and Bangladesh’s national upstream company Bapex on 10%.

Block SS-04 covers 7269 square kilometres while Block SS-09 is 7026 square kilometres in size. Water depths at both blocks ranges between 20 and 200 metres.

The minimum commitment workscope comprises 2700 line kilometres of 2D seismic on each block and one exploration well on Block SS-04 and two wells on Block SS-09.

Need for energy

Energy-hungry Bangladesh currently relies heavily on imported liquefied natural gas to help bridge the burgeoning gap between demand and its onshore gas production.

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The Dhaka administration remains keen to tempt other international upstream players back to its offshore waters although there are no known plans on the horizon to offer more onshore acreage.

The government is, however, looking to Bapex, Titas and other onshore operators to reactivate shut-in fields and look to boost production from existing assets.