Eastern Europe Competes with Down Under

Licensing Opportunity
This article appeared in Vol. 10, No. 5 - 2014


Australia - Blue / Montenegro - Green / Austria - Red


Hungary has invited bids from both foreign and domestic companies for seven new exploration licences, four for hydrocarbons in southeastern Hungary near existing fields and three for geothermal exploration in the eastern and south-eastern parts of the country. The ministry said it would announce the winners within 90 days following the 15 November deadline to submit bids. The four oil and gas concessions cover a total area of 1,488 km2 and will be valid for 20 years, while the geothermal ones last for 35 years with extensions possible. The blocks in the Szegedi Medence and Battonya areas are located in the Szeged and Bekes Sub-basins, tectonic units of the Pannonian Basin. A few other open areas already pre-selected for hydrocarbon exploration are slated for tendering at a later time, possibly by the end of 2013. The legal, financial, technical and other conditions and information relating to the tendering procedure can be found in the tender document, which may be collected at the Customer Service Office of the Hungarian Office for Mining and Geology. 

Conventional reserves of oil and gas in Hungary are negligible and have been in decline for several years and remain a major source of concern for the government, which has put considerable effort into diversifying supply options and increasing storage capabilities. The government is keen to talk up its shale gas potential as a bargaining chip in negotiations with upstream suppliers, especially Russia, although there remains the possibility that the anti-fracking movement may spread to Hungary.


The Ministry of Economy is inviting oil and gas companies to participate in the country’s first licensing round, which will remain open for tenders from 7 August 2013 until 28 February 2014. This first bidding round inventory includes 13 offshore blocks totalling 3,191 km2 in southern Montenegro, a completely unexplored area adjacent to the maritime border with Albania. This seems to be an opportunity with great potential, with 18 companies reported to have expressed an interest. The new petroleum law, which is a pre-requisite for launching a tender call, was prepared by the government in late 2009 and adopted by Parliament on 11 March 2010. 

In the offshore area of Montenegro prospects have been identified both within the Dinarides Thrust Belt and in the adjacent Adriatic-Ionian foreland basin. Offshore Montenegro is considered an attractive exploration area and identified prospects span a wide range of stratigraphic units (see GEO ExPro Vol. 9, No. 5). Several Pliocene prospects, for example, have been identified at depths ranging between 700m and 1,300m in waters up to 120m. The area of these prospects is covered by 3D seismic data and the gas indicative nature allows the exploration risk to be considered as medium to low.

The tiny Balkan country, which became independent in 2006, has no oil production, but based on unprocessed and fragmented data it could cover its oil and gas needs from its own resources, according to the ministry. The need for new energy sources is acute across the Balkans, a region that has lacked investment in capacity for nearly two decades due to wars and political turmoil.


In addition to the regular acreage releases by the Federal government, the various states of Australia offer several blocks independently and often running concurrently. At this time the Federal government is offering a total of 31 blocks located offshore Western Australia, Northern Territory and Victoria. The blocks available cover a combined total area of nearly 110,000 km2 over six basins. The bidding is closing in two tranches, as is standard with the annual Federal Acreage Release. Twenty blocks are closing in the first tranche on 21 November 2013, with the remaining eleven blocks closing on 22 May 2014. The closing dates depend on data availability over each block. A total of 29 blocks were chosen for the round based on industry nomination, with the remaining two blocks, located in the Perth Basin, nominated by Geoscience Australia.

The Victoria State Government has opened four areas as part of its 2013 acreage offer. Two onshore blocks located in the Netherby Trough have been released and a further two blocks, in the offshore Gippsland Basin within the three nautical mile limit, are also available for bidding. The government reports that a range of geoscience data is available over these blocks, which can be acquired from the Victoria Department of Primary Industries. Applications must be submitted by 21 November 2013.

The Western Australian State Government is offering seven blocks comprising six new areas as well as one re-released area, which was part of the Discreet Area Release in 2012. The seven blocks cover around 21,000 km2 and are located in the North Carnarvon, Perth and Officer- Gunbarrel Basins. Applicants must submit a proposed work programme with any applications in the round, which closes on 14 November 2013.


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