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Oil and Gas Available in Afghanistan

Afghanistan has just launched its very first licensing round. Three blocks with 6 proven oil and gas fields are up for grabs in the Amy Darya Basin next to Turkmenistan.
This article appeared in Vol. 6, No. 3 - 2009

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Abandoned drilling rig used by Soviet oil workers in the 1980’s. Photo: Geir Ytreland Afghanistan's Ministry of Mines (Ministry of Mines of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (MoM)) has initiated a bidding round "for the award of exploration and production sharing contracts for hydrocarbon operations" in the northern part of the country. Two gas and one oil block will be auctioned in an area where many oil and gas fields already have been discovered. Five of the six fields being auctioned have not yet been put on production.  

Proven Reserves

The hydrocarbon potential in northern Afghanistan has been evaluated by the U.S. Geological Survey who estimated the mean undiscovered resources at 15.7Tcf (2.8Bboe) of gas, 1.6Bb of oil, and 562MMb of natural gas liquids.  

Most of the oil and gas fields were discovered in the 1970's during Soviet led exploration campaigns, the only exception being the Angot oil field within the Kashkari block that was discovered in 1959. Angot is also the only oil field to have been in sustained production in Afghanistan, according to the Ministry. It was, however, shut down in 2006 with estimated remaining reserves of 6MMbo.  

The size of the blocks offered and the remaining recoverable reserves are estimated as follows: Jangalikalan Block (1,999 km2): 19 Bm3 (0.67Tcf, 120MMboe), Juma-Bashikurd Block (1,861 km2): 33 Bm3 (1,2Tcf, 210MMboe),Kashkari Block (1,723 km2): 64.4MMbo (plus 143.8MMbo of possible reserves). However, the Ministry of Mines say they are "quite optimistic that the potential figures will be much bigger".  

Underexplored Basin

"The Amy Daria Basin is a large geological province (57,000 km2 in Afghanistan alone, the equivalent of approximately 10 North Sea Quadrants or more than 2000 US Gulf of Mexico blocks), with several prolific petroleum producing areas  and many recent world class gas discoveries in adjacent Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan," says Geir Ytreland. Ytreland, a consultant who is engaged by NORAD, is presently conducting a marketing campaign on behalf of the Afghanistan government to promote the 3 blocks. NORAD (through "Oil for Development) is assisting Afghanistan with Institutional capacity-building programme and expert assistance on legal framework, fiscal terms, environmental management, and support to the Ministry for tendering oil and gas blocks.  

According to Ytreland, who has visited the country more than ten times, the Afghanistan part of this huge basin is seriously underexplored despite 27 years of exploration between 1957 and 1984. A total of 15 discoveries were made in that period, 7 oil fields and 8 gas fields, with the most recent oil discovery being made in 1978.  

The results of that exploration campaign were encouraging. A total of 5Tcf (900MMboe) of gas and 75MMbo was discovered. While 2Tcfg (280MMboe) has been produced to date, the oil remains in the ground.  

The Petroleum System

The Amu Darya petroleum system is characterized by Jurassic source rocks, Jurassic to Cretaceous reservoir rocks and Jurassic to Cretaceous mudstone cap rocks. Petroleum generation and migration started in the Late Cretaceous, while trap development happened in Paleogene to Neogene times.  

"The last seismic data was shot by the Soviets in the early 1980's. In my view this basin has a huge potential if modern exploration and production technology is applied," says Ytreland.  

"The structures drilled so far are large, simple anticlines and carbonate reefs, and there is a definite potential for identifying additional structural and stratigraphic traps."  

September Deadline

"This is a unique opportunity, offering discovered oil and gas fields that can be put on stream quickly, with almost 2000 km2 of exploration acreage. The PSC terms are attractive, with a 50/50 profit oil split until a high degree of profitability is reached, upon which the split is 70/30 in favour of the state.  

The three blocks are less than 200km from the giant discoveries in Turkmenistan, where also export pipelines to Europe, Russia and China (to be completed 3rd quarter 2009) are located," Ytreland says.  

The Ministry of Mines started a Road Show in April, and the bid submission closing date is set at 15 September 2009. In order to participate in the prequalification process, prospective bidders have been asked to indicate their interest to the Ministry of Mines by 15 June.  

Details and information can be found on www.afghanistanpetroleum.com.  

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