The UK’s Gulf Keystone Petroleum has begun drilling its fourth well in the Shaikan area in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

Drilling began on 16 December at the Shaikan-6 appraisal well, the company’s fourth deep appraisal well and the tenth in total across all its projects in Iraq, according to a 20 December press release.

Drilled nine kilometres to the east of the Shaikan-2, the well sinks to a depth of 3,800 metres, targeting prospects in the Jurassic and Triassic layers.

It will be followed in 2012 by Shaikan-7, which will target potential hydrocarbons in the deeper, lower-Triassic and the Permian layers.

Gulf Keystone estimates the area contains reserves of as much as 13.4 billion barrels of oil (MEED 8:11:11).

Gulf Keystone is the operator of the Shaikan block, holding a 75 per cent stake in the production-sharing agreement, along with Hungary’s Kalegran and the US’ Texas Keystone. The company says it also has a 20 per cent stake in the Akri-Bijeel block operated by MOL Hungarian Oil & Gas Company.