TASHKENT, August 30 (Itar-Tass) - Uzbekistan's government and an international consortium have sealed a production sharing agreement to explore and develop offshore oil and gas fields in the Aral Sea, north-western Uzbekistan, Uzbek Deputy Prime Minister Ergash Shoismatov was quoted by Prime-Tass as saying.
"The Aral Sea is largely unknown, but it holds a lot of promise in terms of finding oil and gas. There is risk of course but we believe in the success of this unique project," he said.
The consortium consists of the Uzbekneftegaz national holding company, Russia's Lukoil Overseas, Malaysia's Petronas, South Korea's KNOC and China's CNPC.
At the initial three-year stage the consortium will conduct seismic exploration and drill two wells. This stage of the project is estimated at 99.8 million U.S. dollars.
Taking into account climatic conditions, exploration will begin in April 2007.
Partakers in the project signed an agreement on creating a consortium back in September 2005. Under the agreement, they have equal shares.
According to Uzbekneftegaz, the Aral Sea has more than 30 hydrocarbon fields. But the consortium has yet to verify Uzbek geologists' estimates. Specialists say this may take at least three years and about 300 million U.S. dollars.
Lukoil Overseas President Andrei Kuzyayev said the Aral Sea was a new area for geologists. If prospecting, to begin in the spring of next year, confirms gas and oil reserves, the project may play a key role in reviving the economy of the entire region.
The interest in the Aral Sea was boosted by Uzbek President Islam Karimov's statement during his recent visit to Seoul that Kazakhstan's Tengiz oil field extended into Uzbekistan.
"The territory of Uzbekistan is not explored thus far. For example, the Ustyurt plateau in Karakalpakia [autonomous region within the republic]. The latest discoveries make us think that the Tengiz field arch in the Caspian region in Kazakhstan also runs in Uzbekistan through the Aral depr ... Читать далее