Hydrocarbon Exploration

Hydrocarbon Exploration activity of exploring hydrocarbon. In Bangladesh hydrocarbon exploration began in 1910 when the first exploratory well was drilled at Sitakunda in Chittagong by the Indian Petroleum Prospecting Company. By 1914, four exploratory wells were drilled at Sitakunda but without success. Burma Oil Company drilled another three wells at Patharia in Sylhet during 1923 to 1933, but no discovery was made. These concluded the first phase (1910-1933) of hydrocarbon exploration in the region.

A second phase (1951-1970) of exploration began after the partition of the Indian subcontinent. Burma Oil Company drilled several wells in the eastern part and discovered the first two gas fields, ie Sylhet in 1955 and Chhatak in 1959. Standard Vacuum Oil Company drilled three wells in 1959-60 in the northwestern part of the country but without success. Shell Oil Company was most successful in their exploration effort during the 1960s with the discovery of five major gas fields, ie Titas, Rashidpur, Habiganj, Kailashtila and Bakhrabad in the eastern part of the country. In 1969 the national oil company of the country Oil and Gas Development Corporation discovered the Semutang gas field.

The third phase (1971-1980) of exploration activities took shape after the independence of Bangladesh. petrobangla was established in 1972. In 1974, production-sharing contracts (PSC) were signed with six foreign oil companies to explore the offshore blocks in the bay of bengal. Nippon Oil (BODC) drilled three wells in the southern Bay of Bengal, Arco drilled one well and Ina-Naptaplin drilled two wells in the central part. Union Oil was the sole company to report a gas discovery in 1977 in the northern Bay of Bengal. By 1978 all foreign companies relinquished their blocks and left. Exploration in the onshore areas was conducted by the National Oil Company under Petrobangla, which discovered the Begumganj gas field in Noakhali in 1977.

The discovery of several onshore and offshore gas fields and one oil field mark the fourth phase (1981-2000) of hydrocarbon exploration activities. Petrobangla discovered Beanibazar, Kamta and Feni gas fields in 1981. The only commercial oil field, Haripur, was discovered in 1986 by the National Oil Company. Two foreign companies were active, Shell Oil in the Chittagong Hills and Scimitar in the Sylhet region. By 1990, Shell quit after drilling one dry well in the Chittagong hills and Scimitar's contract was cancelled for not fulfilling exploration obligations and fraud, but not before discovering the Jalalabad gas field in Sylhet.

Hydrocarbon exploration gathered pace during the 1990s with the participation of several foreign oil companies. The first round of bidding for hydrocarbon exploration was announced in 1993 and subsequently PSC was signed with Occidental Exploration, Cairn Energy, Rexwood International and United Meridian Corporation. Cairn Energy discovered the offshore Sangu gas field in 1996 in the northern Bay of Bengal while Rexwood had a dry hole in the southern Bay in 1998. Occidental faced a major accident, a gas blowout in Maulvi Bazar well in Sylhet in 1996, but later declared a gas discovery in the same place. Subsequently Cairn transferred its operatorship to Shell Oil, and Occidental to its partner Unocal Corporation. Unocal/Occidental discovered the Bibiyana gas field, supposedly one of the largest gas fields in Bangladesh, in the greater Sylhet area in 1998. Both Unocal and Shell are active to date. During the 1990s the national Oil Company bapex was also active, although at a slower pace, and discovered two gas fields, ie Shahbazpur in 1995 and Saldanadi in 1996. The second round of bidding was announced in 1997 and negotiations with other International Oil Companies (IOC) were in progress at the beginning of 2000 for engaging them in exploration work under new PSC. [Badrul Imam]

See also hydrocarbon; hydrocarbon generation.