Russia’s Gazprom Neft has begun an exploratory drilling programme at its Shakal block in Iraqi Kurdistan, expecting to complete well testing on two oil reservoirs by late 2014 or early 2015.

The company has appointed Canada’s Grey Wolf as contractor on the project to drill two wells of up to 3.5 kilometres on depth.

Gazprom Neft has conducted seismic surveys covering an area of more than 1,000 square kilometres in the Shakal block.

Two other blocks in Iraqi Kurdistan are planned to be developed by the Russian group. Gazprom Neft plans to start exploratory drilling at the Halabja block in 2015 or 2016, while the Garmian block is being prepared for a full-scale development.

The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) is currently considering the initial field development plan, Gazprom Neft said.