US, Irish firms to explore for oil in Bay of Bengal


Dhaka : Bangladesh has unveiled its oil and gas exploration plans in the Bay of Bengal, awarding three blocks for exploration, while taking care that they do not fall within maritime territories claimed by neighbours India and Myanmar.

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The cabinet committee on economic affairs Monday approved three oil and gas exploration bids “under the condition that the explorers would not work in the internationally disputed maritime areas until the dispute is resolved”, The Daily Star said.

Ireland-based company Tullow Bangladesh has been awarded shallow water block SS-08-05 while US oil company Conoco Phillips South Asia New Ventures Ltd has got the deep sea blocks DS-08-10 and 11.

As per the cabinet decision, these companies “are allowed to explore the areas of these blocks not claimed by Myanmar or India”.

“The condition is that they cannot explore certain parts of these block till the disputes are settled,” said Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith after the committee meeting.

This condition was given following an international convention that says if there is a dispute over maritime boundary, a nation may award blocks but it should not allow exploration in the disputed areas.

The maritime boundaries in the upper reaches of Bay of Bengal are not demarcated and Bangladesh is sandwiched between the two neighbours, talks with whom have been non-starters.

All three are expected to present their respective claims for UN arbitration by mid-2011.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, who was present at the meeting, said: “After 22 years of maritime dispute, we have started holding dialogues with our neighbouring countries for the first time. We have to submit our claims on maritime boundary to the UN by July 2011.”

She said a cell has been created in the foreign ministry to prepare the claims.

“We believe we can resolve the disputes through negotiations with our neighbouring nations,” the foreign minister added.

An official at the energy ministry told reporters that Tullow, which has been awarded a shallow water block, would get four years to explore its block and must produce oil or gas within eight years of signing of a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) with Petrobangla.

Conoco, which was awarded deep sea blocks, will get five years for exploration and nine years to produce hydrocarbon.

Seven oil companies had submitted proposals for 15 blocks out of 28 during last year’s bidding.

Conoco Phillips offered to invest $442.63 million under four PSCs for eight blocks, while Tullow proposed to invest $50 million in a single block.