U.S.-based companies did quite well in the first licensing round held by Libya in some 20 years. Occidental Petroleum, ChevronTexaco and Amerada Hess all won blocks in the highly competitive offering. In all, 15 licenses were awarded, which the Libyan government estimates involves 3 billion barrels of oil. Occidental Petroleum dominated the offering with nine successful bids, winning interests in five onshore and four offshore blocks. Liwa, a unit of Abu Dhabi, partnered with Oxy in its successful bids for onshore blocks 131 and 136 in the Murzuq Basin, blocks 106 and 124 in the Sirte area, and Block 59, near Libya's border with Egypt. A consortium that includes Oxy, Liwa and Australian firm Woodside Petroleum Ltd. was awarded offshore blocks 35, 36, 52 and 53 in the Gulf of Sirte. Woodside will operate those licenses. ChevronTexaco took Block 177 in the Marzouk Basin, south of Tripoli, and Amerada Hess won offshore Block 54 in the Gulf of Sirte. Other successful participants were India Ltd. and India Corp., which won Block 86 in the West Sirte region; tiny Verenex Energy Inc., from Canada, which took Block 47 in the northern Ghadames Basin in partnership with PT Medco of Indonesia; and Algier's Sonatrach, which was awarded onshore Block 65 in the Ghadames Basin. Petrobras won a contract to explore offshore Block 18. Its 30% partner is Oil Search Ltd., an Australian firm. -Peggy Williams 1 Canada Calgary-based International Frontier Resources Corp. has signed a memorandum of understanding to form a joint venture with the Katlodeeche First Nations to explore some 1.9 million acres of traditional and reserve lands. The tract is just north of the Alberta border in the Deh Cho regions of the southern Northwest Territories, reports Nickle's Petroleum Explorer. International Frontier plans to acquire seismic beginning in the third quarter. 2 Trinidad & Tobago ChevronTexaco has made a discovery at the company's Manatee-1 wildcat, on offshore Block 6d. The company drilled the well in 299 ft. of water and encountered 899 gross ft. of pay. The find is northwest of and on trend with the major's Loran Field discoveries in Venezuela, and appears to extend the productive shallow gas-sand play into Trinidad & Tobago. BG Group holds a 50% interest in the ChevronTexaco-operated well. 3 U.K. Newfield Exploration has made its first discovery in the North Sea at its Grove prospect. The Houston-based company drilled the discovery in Block 49/10a in the Southern Gas Basin. The well, an appraisal of a discovery drilled in 1971 but never developed, reached a total depth of 11,400 ft. and encountered 120 ft. of net gas pay in the Leman and Barren Red Measures sands. It tested at 25 million cu. ft. of gas and 330 bbl. of condensate per day. The company noted that the flow rates were limited by the test equipment. Newfield will build a production facility and plans first production late next year. It estimates reserves between 75- and 100 billion cu. ft. of gas equivalent. The company holds a 100% interest in that block and in the six-block Cleaver Bank North area. 4 The Netherlands Gaz de France is starting a large synchronized project in the Dutch North Sea, according to Ogilvie's E&P Daily. The company will combine development of three gas fields it recently discovered in blocks G14 and G17a with two additional fields it acquired in 2003 in the K2/K3 and G16a blocks. The company estimated combined reserves in the fields at 636 billion cu. ft. of gas, and it plans to invest $400 million to develop the complex. It will install two new platforms, modify two existing platforms and install one subsea wellhead. 5 Poland FX Energy and the Polish Oil & Gas Co. are working to bring the Wilga-2 discovery well onstream. The project is approximately 30 miles southeast of Warsaw in east-central Poland. The companies anticipate daily rates of 5- to 6 million cu. ft. of gas and 230 bbl. of condensate when the well starts producing early next year. The discovery, made in 2000, contains estimated reserves of 6.3 billion cu. ft. of gas and 250,000 bbl. of condensate. In addition, FX reports that it has tested the Rusocin-1 well on the Wolsztyn High in its Fences I area. The tests showed that the well, operated by POGC, can be commercially produced. The partners plan to acquire seismic and drill several appraisal wells in the stratigraphic pinchout play. The Lugi prospect is scheduled as the next test in the emerging trend. 6 Algeria Gulf Keystone Petroleum Ltd., Bermuda, has awarded two 3-D seismic contracts for its acreage in Algeria. The Algerian national seismic company will conduct the surveys on Block 126a in northern Algeria, near the border with Tunisia. These surveys will build on the results of a 2-D seismic survey conducted in 2004. The first survey will cover an area of 178 sq. miles over the southwestern portion of the license and include the OBA, EKG, RTB-W and CEJ prospects. A second 3-D survey will cover 166 sq. miles in the central, currently productive, portion of Block 126a. 7 Nigeria Houston independent Spinnaker Exploration has entered West Africa with a flourish, farming into a prospective offshore block held by Devon Energy. The first exploration well, the Tari-1, is already being drilled on OPL 256. Spinnaker is taking a 12.5% interest in the 984-sq.-mile license, which is covered between 4,920 and 9,185 ft. of water. 8 Angola ChevronTexaco plans to appraise a significant discovery in the shared area between Angola and Congo. The discovery, in the 14K/A-IMI unitized area, was made late last year on the same stratigraphic trend as previous Block 14 deepwater discoveries at Landana and Tombua in Angola. The Lianzi-1 exploration well was drilled in 2,984 ft. of water and encountered two oil-bearing reservoirs. A drillstem test of one of the intervals flowed at a rate of more than 5,000 bbl. of oil per day. The shared unit covers the combined portions of 14K, a deepwater prospect lying within the limits of Angola's Block 14 concession, and the A-IMI prospect, lying within the limits of Congo's Haute Mer permit. The 269-sq.-mile unitization zone was formed in 2002. 9 Azerbaijan Oil production has started from the massive Central Azeri Field development in 420 ft. of water in the Caspian Sea, according to Azerbaijan International Operating Co. The field, part of the Azeri-Chirag-Guneshli complex, will provide much of the oil destined for the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline now under construction. Production from the platform is forecast to average 93,000 bbl. of oil per day this year; overall capacity is 420,000 bbl. per day. The ACG complex is estimated to contain more than 5.4 billion bbl. of recoverable oil. BP is operator for the 10-company consortium. 10 India India's Reliance Industries Ltd. brought in its thirteenth straight gas discovery on its prolific D6 block in deep water off the coast of Andhra Pradesh. The G-1 exploratory well tested at an initial rate of 100 million cu. ft. of gas per day from two zones. The company, with its 10% partner Niko Resources of Canada, has proved up some 14.5 trillion cu. ft. of reserves on the block. The partners plan to produce between 40- and 60 million cu. ft. of gas per day by 2008. 11 Russia Russian firm Rosneft has signed a pact with Korea National Oil Corp. to jointly explore for oil off the coast of the northeastern Kamchatka region. The companies will acquire seismic this year and drill three wells by 2008. They expect to spend $150 million in the area. Fields offshore Kamchatka could hold as much as 6.6 billion bbl. of oil. 12 China Kerr-McGee Corp. has been awarded a production-sharing contract for Block 43/11 in deep water in the Pearl River Mouth Basin in the South China Sea. The 2.4-million-acre parcel is some 220 miles southeast of Hong Kong in water depths from 5,000 to 10,000 ft. Oklahoma City-based Kerr-McGee holds a 100% interest in the property, and state firm China National Offshore Oil Corp. has the right to back in for a 51% share in the development phase. 13 Malaysia ConocoPhillips has been awarded a production-sharing contract for the appraisal and development of Kebabangan Field, offshore northwest Sabah. Kebabangan Field was a gas discovery in 1994; an appraisal well drilled in 2002 also penetrated an oil column in several reservoir intervals. The company will now appraise the extent and commerciality of the oil reserves. Water depths range between 400 and 800 ft. Petronas Carigali has a 60% interest in the venture. 14 New Zealand Swift Energy plans to increase its exploration activity in the Taranaki Basin by drilling between 10 and 15 wells this year. The Houston-based operator plans to spend 20% of its $200- to $220-million total capital expenditure budget on exploration in New Zealand. The company plans three to four wells targeting the intermediate-depth Kauri sand, and four to six wells in the shallow Manutahi sand. It will also begin its Tarata thrust exploration activity, drilling between three and five tests in that play this year