UK energy major BP plans to further explore its oil and gas concession in Libya’s Gulf of Sirte basin and has started looking for a contractor to survey the area.

The company completed initial seismic surveys of the area in October 2009, and hopes to start drilling five exploration wells by the end of 2010 on the basis of these studies. In total, the company is committed to spending $900m by 2015 exploring the block, capturing 30,000 square kilometres of 3D seismic data and drilling 27 wells in the process.

It now plans to start further seismic surveys in 2011. It has asked qualified companies to submit expressions of interest (EOI) in a deal to capture seismic data by 26 August. BP will tender the contract early in the fourth quarter of 2010 and hopes to award the deal by the end of the year, sources close to the scheme tell MEED.

Companies likely to express interest in the contract include China’s BGD International, French firm CGG Veritas and Canada’s Sander Geophysics.

Depending on the level of success upstream, development plans have been drafted for a downstream investment of up to $25bn. This includes pipelines, processing facilities and up to four liquefied natural gas (LNG) trains.

These developments are likely to be incorporated into the Libyan government’s plans to develop the Gulf of Sirte into a $54bn energy hub, sources with knowledge of the developments tell MEED.

BP is likely to want to keep a low profile in Libya in the near future as it seeks to deflect attention over deep water drilling following a disastrous spill at its Macondo concession in the US’ Gulf of Mexico and allegations that it lobbied the British government to release a convicted Libyan terrorist, Abdelbasset al-Megrahi, to improve its chances of winning work in the country.