‘The first exploratory well was spudded at Sheeh-2 with a total target depth of 5,720 metres,’ an Aramco statement said in late December. ‘It will take about eight months to complete drilling.’ The well was drilled using the 2,000-hp Sinopec 189 rig. ‘The wildcat location was determined after acquiring about 7,000 kilometres of 2D seismic data. SSGL has committed to acquire a minimum 13,000 square kilometres of 2D data in its block.’

SIPC was one of three foreign companies and groups – the others being Russia’s Lukoil Overseasand a consortium of Italy’s Eni and Spain’s Repsol YPF– to sign agreements with Aramco in early 2004 to participate in the landmark north RAK gas development scheme. Under the programme, the groups were assigned three contract areas. The largest acreage of 51,400 square kilometres and designated as area C was awarded to the Eni/Repsol team, followed by area B of 39,000 square kilometres to SIPC and the 29,900-square-kilometre area A to Lukoil. All three groups are entitled to explore and develop the acreages for 40 years. ‘Sheeh-2 is the first of 20 wildcat wells to be drilled by early 2009 by the three upstream joint ventures,’ the statement said.

Lukoil Saudi Arabia Energy (Luksar), the 80:20 JV of Lukoil and Aramco, plans to drill nine exploration wells in its concession area. `the US’ Western-Geco is carrying out interpretation of 2D and 3D seismic studies and drilling is expected to start in late January. ‘Contracts have been awarded for equipment, materials and drilling support services,’ says a Lukoil statement. For area A, the Eni/Repsol team plans to drill four wells, following the completion of 5,000 kilometres of 2D surveys.