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Azeri Gas Group Boosts Reserves 20%

Azerbaijan's biggest gas field, Shakh-Deniz, has 20% more gas reserves than initially thought, a project partner said on Thursday confirming the field's large export potential for Europe.

More gas found in a new well will further boost its chances of becoming a major supplier to Europe and one of the main rivals of Russian gas in the decades to come. The newly confirmed reserves are enough to supply the European Union for over two years.

"Following completion of a fourth exploration well on Shakh-Deniz, we have confirmed reserves of over 1.2 trillion cubic meters of gas and 240 million tonnes of gas condensate," Rovnag Abdullayev, the president of Azerbaijan state energy firm Socar, told Reuters.

Socar is a partner in the $4-billion Shakh-Deniz, which is co-led by BP and Statoil and also involves Russia's LUKOIL, France's Total and Iranian and Turkish state firms.

The field's reserves had been previously estimated at 600 billion cubic meters and later revised to around 1 tcm of gas.

Shakh-Deniz has already supply agreements with the neighboring Georgia and Turkey and wants to send large volumes of gas via Turkey to Europe to rival Russia's Gazprom in countries such as Italy and Austria.

Gazprom, the world's largest gas producer and supplier of a quarter of Europe's gas needs, has repeatedly played down the threat of Shakh-Deniz to its export ambitions saying the field's reserves were poor and could not guarantee stable supplies to European customers.

The field has been producing gas since December 2006 and is expected to extract 2.8 bcm this year, rising to 8 bcm in 2008.

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