Oman seeks intl investment to develop ultra-heavy oilfield

Oman’s Ministry of Oil & Gas says it will open up its ultra-heavy oilfield at Habhab in south Oman to investment and development by international players with the technological and financial wherewithal to unlock the field’s promising, but technically challenging, resources.
Habhab, a large, heavy and very viscous oil accumulation that currently forms part of the Block 6 concession of Petroleum Development Oman (PDO), is proposed to be carved out and offered up to international energy firms with the knowhow to harness the reservoir’s almost bitumen-like hydrocarbons.
According to Dr Salman bin Mohammed al Shidi, Director General of Management of Petroleum Investments at the Ministry, Habhab will be “packaged separately” to companies that have the technical capabilities to handle heavy oil resources. “We will be open to companies that have the technical might and the investment, firstly to study the reservoir and then to put together a proposal to unlock its heavy oil,” the official said.
Earlier this month, the ministry announced that Habhab would be marketed in conjunction with the Oman Licensing Bid Round 2019 due to be launched in the first quarter of next year. In all, six oil and gas blocks — newly labelled as Blocks 70, 73, 74, 75, 76 and 58 and distributed across the Sultanate — will be offered under Exploration & Production Sharing Agreements (EPSA) as part of the bid round.
In addition, two other blocks are also open for investment based on ‘One-to-One’ negotiations with qualified international parties with the technological wherewithal and resources required to unlock the challenging hydrocarbon potential of these concessions.
They include Block 71, containing the Habhab field, home to a multibillion barrel (STOIIP) ultra-heavy oil reservoir. The other concession is Block 43B, which has remained over from the 2017 Licensing Round.
Significantly, the move to market the Habhab internationally follows on from PDO’s own efforts to secure an international partner to invest in the development of the ultra-heavy oilfield. Habhab’s hydrocarbon content is officially categorised at bitumen, which presents formidable technical challenges that test the boundaries of Enhanced Oil Recovery (EOR) technologies currently deployed in the Sultanate, says PDO.
Originally discovered in 1982, Habhab has an estimated 2.4 billion barrels of ultra-heavy crude. Steam and chemical injection pilots launched by PDO did yield encouraging results, but evidently not to the point where it could go it alone in harnessing the field’s potential.
According to PDO, the bitumen is accumulated in a thinly laminated sandstone reservoir with an oil column thickness of approximately 100 metres with the reservoir depth starting at 1,550 metres.