UK-based Gulf Keystone has raised $200m through the issue of new shares, to accelerate the exploration and development of oil discoveries made in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region of northern Iraq.

The company issued 91 million new shares at £1.40 a share, saying the proceeds would be used to fund an aggressive exploration and appraisal programme at the Shaikan, Sheikh Adi and Ber Bahr blocks, which contain an estimated 12 billion barrels of oil, according to a 20 September company release.

Gulf Keystone plans to build pipeline from its Shaikan oil field to Iraq’s 800,000 barrel-a-day (b/d) northern export pipeline, which runs from Kirkuk to the Turkish port of Ceyhan. Front-end engineering and design (feed) work on the pipeline, which will carry a minimum of 440,000 b/d, has not been completed yet.

The company also plans to upgrade production facilities at Shaikan to increase production at the Shaikan-1 and 3 wells to 20,000 b/d in 2012 and potential up to 40,000 b/d later on (MEED 24:5:11).

Additional testing and production facilities for Shaikan-2 and 4 will also be built. These will also be capable of producing 20,000 b/d, following successful well tests at Shaikan-2 and in anticipation of positive results from Shaikan-4.

The company also plans to drill another well at the Sheikh Adi block and to obtain 3D seismic data for the Ber Bahr block where a first exploration well will be drilled in October 2011.

Gulf Keystone holds production sharing contracts for four exploration blocks in Kurdistan. Further funds will be raised through the sale of its 20 per cent interest in the Akri-Bijeel exploration block.