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TIRANA, Nov 7 (Reuters) – Royal Dutch Shell (Xetra: R6C1.DE -news) and Petromanas Energy Inc (Other OTC: PENYF - news) plan to drill more wells at an Albanian site to determine its production capacity after test flows from the first well found good quality oil and gas, a Petromanas official said.
If successful, the find could be the first major discovery in the impoverished Adriatic country since it toppled communism in 1990 and opened up exploration to oil majors.
Petromanas, a small Canadian company, partnered with Shell (LSE: RDSB.L - news) to drill the first well at Shpirag in southern Albania just half a mile from the spot where Occidental found very little oil in 2001. It has a 25 percent stake, while Shell controls the rest.
“The positive news is clearly that there is a reservoir there, and it is productive. It is a good quality light oil,” Peter Sider, Petromanas’ vice president for engineering operations and business development, told Reuters on Thursday.
Albanian crude is usually heavy and highly sulphurous.
“The other positive is that the associated gas is sweeter than we expected,” Sider added.
“During the extended test, the Shpirag-2 well flowed at rates of 800 to 1,300 barrels per day (bpd) of 35 to 37 degree API oil and 2 to 5 mmcfd of gas,” Petromanas and Shell said.
Petromanas, the operator, drilled Shpirag-2 to a total depth of 5,553 metres.
“The results of the Shpirag-2 well are encouraging and support the potential of this oil play in Albania,” said Edwin Verdonk, Shell vice president for Europe exploration.
Sider said the operators will be pulling pressure recorders from the hole in 30 days to get an idea of the reservoir’s size.
“It keeps us enthused to go on with the appraisal programme, but it will take a year or two determine whether we have a commercial project or not,” Sider added.
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The UK Government’s Civil Aviation Authority has announced a major safety review of North Sea helicopter operations following the Sumburgh Head disaster off Shetland which claimed the lives of four oilworkers.
(The Scotsman) The review will also focus on the causes of another four helicopter accidents and incidents in the North Sea overt the past four years, including the fatal crash in April 2009 in which a Super Puma plummeted from the sky, killing all 16 people on board.
The review will be undertaken jointly with the Norwegian CAA and the European Aviation Safety Agency.
A spokesman for the UK’s specialist aviation regulator said: “It will study current operations, previous incidents and accidents and offshore helicopter flying in other countries to make recommendations aimed at improving the safety of offshore flying.”
He continued: “Although there has been considerable effort by regulators, operators and the offshore industry to minimise the risk of North Sea helicopter operations there have been five accidents in the past four years, two of which tragically resulted in fatalities.”
The review will cover a range of issues including pilot training and performance, helicopter airworthiness, the protection of passengers and crew, and the internal management of the main helicopter companies.
It will include a comparison study of UK operations with those in Norway and the findings of the review are due to be published in early 2014.
Mark Swan, Director of the CAA’s Safety and Airspace Regulation Group, said: “The recent accidents have understandably given rise to concerns, particularly with offshore workers who rely so heavily on these helicopter flights. We are absolutely committed to ensuring that operations are as safe as possible.”
The Government’s Air Accident Investigation Branch is still investigating the cause of the crash on 23 August in which a CHC-operated Super Puma AS332L2 crashed off the southern tip of the Shetland mainland.
Those who died were Sarah Darnley, 45, from Elgin, Gary McCrossan, 59, from Inverness, Duncan Munro, 46, from Bishop Auckland, and George Allison, 57, from Winchester.
In April 2009 another Super Puma AS332L2, operated by Bond, crashed on a flight from BP’s Miller field to Aberdeen, killing the two pilots and 14 passengers on board in what was the second-worst helicopter disaster in the history of the North Sea.
Super Puma ditchings
Last year two Super Puma EC225s were involved in two separate ditchings. In October 2012 a Super Puma EC225 operated by CHC was forced to ditch off Shetland. And another EC225 ditched 30 miles off Aberdeen in May last year.
A background briefing on the new helicopter safety review by the CAA states: “An internal review of all reportable UK offshore public transport helicopter accidents during the period 1976 to 2012 has recently been prepared and delivered to the CAA Safety Action Group (SAG) and will subsequently be submitted to the CAA Board. The review established that the main causal factors of these accidents were operational (pilot performance), technical (rotor and transmission failures) and environmental (lightning strikes) factors.
“Set against this background and given the considerable amount of effort that has been invested by both regulatory authorities and operators into minimising the risks to safe operations in the North Sea, nevertheless, a total of five accidents (two of which tragically involved fatalities) have occurred in the last four years. Given that these accidents have involved the main causal factors mentioned above, other than lightning strikes, an urgent review of the overall safety performance levels that currently exist in the North Sea operational context is required. “”
‘Too little, too late’ – BALPA
But the British Airline Pilots’ Association (BALPA) has already branded the review as “too little – too late.”
A spokesman for the union said: “Our immediate reaction is this is too little, too late.”
He continued: “Firstly, the CAA has not shown itself adept at getting below the surface of industry, the real life experience of pilots and understanding the human factors that drive safety.
“Secondly, we believe a review needs to look at the totality of the commercial cut throat business that is the North Sea, and not just the helicopter operation. In short, just how high in the pecking order does safety really sit for an incentivised contract manager?
“Finally, any review must look at the role of the regulator in this trend of accidents. We are concerned that there does not appear to have been any pre-existing comparison of accident rates being maintained despite a series of accidents. In the light of this we just do not think it credible to expect the Regulator to review itself.”
He continued: “BALPA has called on the government to set up a judicial-led independent review along the lines of the post-Piper Alpha inquiry led by Lord Cullen. Today’s announcement by the CAA does not do it for us.”
Specialist recruitment agency for the upstream oil and gas industry, Oil Consultants Ltd, has made another move in its international expansion plans. The company has signed an exclusive partnership with an Abu Dhabi agent, Al Ghaith, in order to bolster its presence in the Middle East and to facilitate the provision of staffing solutions to local clients.
The move comes on the back of a year which has seen Oil Consultants go from strength to strength, posting record turnover of over £26million as well as opening offices in Indonesia, Malaysia and the USA. Gareth Allen, Oil Consultants’ Business Development and Delivery Director for the MEAI region said, “All companies wanting to trade in this region need to have either a local agent or a registered trading entity. Oil Consultants is looking to open its own Dubai office, staffed by regional specialists, in the early part of 2014. This office was to run in conjunction with the development of strong local partnerships. I met with Al Ghaith during a visit to the area in early 2013 and was immediately struck by their commitment and business ethics as well as their network of connections. This partnership is an important stepping stone towards establishing our own company in the region but the relationship will last for a long time to come.”
As to how the partnership will work, Gareth said, “Al Ghaith are a highly respected company within the United Arab Emirates and the support will greatly enhance our own operations in the region. I am sure the partnership will be mutually beneficial. Al Ghaith will facilitate initial introductions for our company then provide back office support for our operations in the region whilst Oil Consultants will provide the delivery of the specialist staffing solutions. Between the two companies we have an extensive network of both clients and experience in the Middle East that will support the businesses of both parties.”
Mr Atif Arikat, Managing Director at Al Ghaith, said, “Our company acts as an agent for over 55 international companies and we pride ourselves on both the breadth of our portfolio and the quality of the businesses within it. There is a high demand in the area for specialist recruitment services in the oil and gas sector and we were looking to partner with a strong company in order to assist our local clients. When we were approached by Oil Consultants it was clear that they could provide an exceptional service and that a partnership with them would enhance both our companies’ reputation.
With our network of offices across the Middle East we hope to establish a broad network of partnering agreements with Oil Consultants to help them build their business in this region.”
Oil Consultants Ltd provide specialist technical recruitment to the oil and gas sector. They supply quality and competent individuals or teams of skilled personnel. Established in 1999 by experienced industry workers, we understand what it takes to run a successful project and the people you need to achieve it. For more information, please visit our website www.oc99.com.
(Reuters) – Environmental activists who protested at an offshore oil platform in the Russian Arctic last week will be prosecuted, possibly for piracy which is punishable by up to 15 years’ jail, Russian investigators said on Tuesday.
They said the “attack”, in which Greenpeace activists tried scaling the Gazprom-owned Prirazlomnaya platform, Russia’s first offshore Arctic oil platform, had violated Russian sovereignty.
“When a foreign ship full of electronic equipment intended for unknown purposes and a group of people, declaring themselves to be environmental activists, try to storm a drilling platform there are legitimate doubts about their intentions,” the investigators said in a statement.
The protest ended when armed officers boarded the Netherlands-registered icebreaker and arrested the 30 activists onboard, Greenpeace said. The vessel, the Arctic Sunrise, was towed to the port of Murmansk.
The activists and crew were escorted off the ship late on Tuesday and taken to a local Investigative Committee office, Greenpeace spokeswoman Marina Favorskaya said.
Greenpeace says its protest – aimed to draw attention to the threat oil drilling poses to the fragile Arctic eco-system – was peaceful, and that Russia’s actions violated international law.
A diplomatic delegation of 18 officials representing nine countries went on board the Arctic Sunrise on Tuesday afternoon to meet the detainees, Greenpeace said.
The Netherlands, where Greenpeace International is based, called for the release of the ship and all activists, including two Dutch citizens.
“The sailors and the ship have to be released,” Defense Minister Jeanine Hennis-Plasschaert told parliament.
Greenpeace said the activists had been denied access to lawyers and that they had not yet been formally charged.
Greenpeace’s global chief Kumi Naidoo said: “Any charge of piracy against peaceful activists has no merit … we will not be intimidated or silenced.
“Peaceful activism is crucial when governments around the world have failed to respond to dire scientific warnings.”
Greenpeace says scientific evidence shows that an oil spill from Prirazlomnaya would affect more than 3,000 miles of Russia’s coastline.
Onshore drilling is well established, but significant offshore work is in its infancy despite relatively shallow waters and numerous attempts.
A decade of high oil prices, scarcity of opportunities elsewhere and a shrinking ice cap have led companies to look to unexploited parts of the Arctic in recent years.
Global majors including ExxonMobil, Eni and Statoil have agreed deals with Russia’s state-owned Rosneft to enter Russia’s Arctic offshore waters.
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