Canada’s Sonoro Energy has been granted an investment permit from the provincial government of Salahaddin to begin a planned heavy oil project in the north of Iraq.

The permit will also allow Sonoro to import equipment and personnel for the scheme, according to a 25 April company release.

Sonoro signed a five-year exploration agreement covering 24,000 square kilometres, beginning on 14 April.

The company’s immediate objective is the appraisal of its North Salahaddin resource prospect. This phase includes the acquisition of seismic data and the drilling of three wells to assess the field size and commercial viability.

Another three exploration prospects have also been identified, but require further seismic and well data. Drilling to a depth of 800 metres is targeted for June this year. The next steps will be to finalise a security and drilling programme and to tender for a rig and related services.

Sonoro also plans to build a 5,000 barrels a day (b/d) topping plant, a basic refinery which will produce fuel oil.

The prospect had a well drilled into the structure in 1935 with a pay zone of more than 100 metres with heavy oil. Well tests indicate estimated heavy oil gravities of 11-15 API. “The well was abandoned in 1939 and no further work was carried out to our knowledge,” Sonoro said in March.

On 26 April, Iraq’s Oil Ministry unveiled 12 new exploration blocks across the country, which it plans to auction to international oil companies in January next year  (MEED 29:4:11).