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    OMV Petrom Kicks off Black Sea Drilling


The Austro-Romanian operator is honing its focus on the Black Sea, with planned operations in multiple countries.

by: Joe Murphy

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OMV Petrom Kicks off Black Sea Drilling

Austro-Romanian operator OMV Petrom has launched a new offshore drilling campaign in the Romanian Black Sea, involving two development wells at the shallow-water Istria block, it said on January 18.

Work on the first well began at the end of December and drilling at the second will start early this year, OMV Petrom said. They will be sunk to a depth of 2,500 metres below the seabed, in waters 60 metres deep. The campaign's cost is €32mn ($39mn).

"Using modern technical solutions, we seek to unlock additional resources that can compensate for the decline of the domestic production from mature fields,” OMV Petrom’s board member responsible for upstream operations, Chris Veit, said in a statement. "The Black Sea has a strategic importance for Romania’s gas production, which currently covers almost 10% of the country’s annual gas consumption."

OMV Petrom said previously that the two wells would target additional production from the Lebada East oil and gas field. There are five producing fields at Istria in total, flowing around 25,000 barrels of oil equivalent/day. The company made an additional oil discovery at the Marina-1 well in the area in 2014.

Istria is situated north of the 84bn-m3 Neptun Deep gas discovery, where OMV Petrom is partnered with ExxonMobil, as well as the Midia gas project operated by Black Sea Oil & Gas. While Midia is on track to flow its first gas in 2021, Neptun Deep's development has been repeatedly delayed since Romania passed a controversial law in late 2018 imposing extra taxation and sales restrictions on gas producers.

These difficulties have not deterred OMV Petrom from expanding in the Black Sea, however. It completed the takeover of Austrian parent OMV's stake in the Han Asparuh block in Bulgarian waters adjacent to Neptun Deep in September. It is also negotiating a production-sharing contract to explore off the coast of Georgia.

At the same time, the company struck a deal in December to withdraw from Kazakhstan, in order to hone its focus on the Black Sea. The company wants to establish offshore gas production to offset decline at its mature fields in Romania.