Bahrain invites firms to bid

Manama asks international petroleum firms to pitch offers for crude exploration concessions in six offshore blocks

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By  Nicholas Wilson Published  October 4, 2006

Bahrain will invite international oil companies at the end of 2006 or in early 2007 to explore in six offshore blocks. Abdul Mirza, minister of state and chairman of the National Oil & Gas Authority of Bahrain, said: “We’re looking at the seismic data, and the data collected from the six blocks’ exploration wells." Some companies have already made offers to Manama to start exploring, but none has yet been accepted, said Mirza, the tender selection board chairman. He declined to say which firms are interested. Bahrain is exploring in the Gulf of Bahrain, which opened for exploration and potential exploitation following the International Court of Justice’s 2001 resolution of a territorial dispute between Bahrain and Qatar. The court awarded sovereignty over the Hawar Islands to Bahrain. Bahrain has since offered concessions to foreign investors. In 2001, Bahrain awarded two blocks off the country’s southeastern coast to Petronas (Malaysia) and another similarly located block to ChevronTexaco. Since then, the Calgary-based EnCana Corporation has become involved in offshore exploration. Thailand’s PTT Exploration and Production Company also received exploration acreage in May 2005. Bahrain, which only produces 37,000 barrels of oil per day, is more important as a refiner. Unlike other Gulf states, Bahrain exports refined petroleum products rather than crude oil, from its only refinery, Sitra. Mirza said a major refinery development project was on target and he expects the 260,000 bpd refinery to be completed in 2007. Crude oil for the refinery will come mainly from Saudi Arabia via a subsea pipeline, with Bahrain’s own production supplementing the remainder. The minister said the country wants international oil companies to build a new refinery and wants them to supply the oil. Bahrain and Saudi Arabia share the Abu Safah offshore field, whose crude Saudi Aramco sells on the international market on behalf of both nations. The two countries equally divide up its production revenue.

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