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Eni’s entry bodes well for Oman’s offshore exploration ambitions

Italian energy supermajor Eni’s maiden foray into Oman’s upstream oil and gas industry augurs well for the Sultanate’s ambitions to unlock the promising hydrocarbon potential of its largely unexplored offshore sector, say experts.

Rome-headquartered Eni is globally recognised as a heavyweight in the offshore exploration and production sector with operations in dozens of countries internationally. Its well-established prowess in exploring for liquid hydrocarbons and natural gas in shallow to semi-deep offshore basins — expertise that it has successfully leveraged in Africa, Europe and other regions of the world — will likely be a game-changer for the Sultanate’s efforts to harness potential resources lurking in its vast, untapped offshore space.

Block 52, awarded last week jointly to Eni and Oman Oil Company Exploration & Production (OOCEP) — a wholly owned subsidiary of Oman Oil Company — holds particular promise. Located offshore of the Sultanate’s southeastern and southern seaboard, the block is the largest of Oman’s oil and gas concessions covering a massive 90,790 sq km area. It was one of four hydrocarbon blocks offered by the Ministry of Oil & Gas as part of the 2016 Oman Licensing Bid Round.

Although there have been no discoveries made to date within this concession, gas shows were encountered in the Lower Tertiary and Aruma sections in the Sawqarah Bay South-1, according to the Ministry. Sawqarah Bay South-1, thus far the only well in the Block, was drilled by Petroleum Development Oman (PDO) in 1991.

Potential reservoir units within the block include: Hadhramaut Group sandstones, Aruma Group sandstones, Natih Formation (carbonates and fractured carbonates), Shuaiba Formation (carbonates and fractured carbonates), and Tuwaiq Mountain Formation limestones.

“The presence of potential Haima and Huqf supergroup reservoir intervals is dependent on the depth to basement and the structural configuration of the basement. Deposits from these supergroups are not expected on basement horst blocks. Likewise, preservation of Haima and Huqf deposits possibly only occurs in the structurally deeper mini-basins between horst blocks,” a backgrounder on the Block explained.

The Eni-OOCEP partnership joins a limited line-up of companies that previously owned Block 52. The list includes Sun Oil Company, Amoco, Petroleum Development Oman and more recently, Circle Oil Ltd.

Adding to the Block’s investment appeal, when it was offered as part of the 2016 Bid Round, were a number of factors. Firstly, the area comprising the southern portion of the block was only offered recently, according to the Ministry. Besides, the northern portion of block underwent “many shape iterations” which placed it into long-term concession areas. Furthermore, potentially attractive deeper water areas were also only recently added to the block’s area.

Conrad Prabhu

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