25 July 2001

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Australian Pancon awarded two offshore oil exploration permits
Area contains ‘look-alike’ prospects of billion-barrel discoveries

By David Lindsay

Australian petroleum exploration company Pancontinental Oil & Gas NL (Pancon), announced on Monday that it had executed an Exploration Study Agreement (ESA) with the Maltese government for two offshore permits totalling approximately 14,800 square kilometres just south west of Malta.

Pancon reports that the offshore area entrusted to the company by the Maltese government contains ‘look alike’ prospects of commercial billion-barrel discoveries in the nearby offshore areas of Tunisia and Libya. The offshore areas in question are Area 5 and Block 3 of Area 4.
Pancon had capitalised upon an opportunity revealed late in 2000, which presented itself when experts were reviewing technical data on Maltese territorial waters not under a petroleum permit.

An interpretation of the data, the company says, indicates that the potential size of the prospect is ‘very robust and adequate to contain commercial hydrocarbon volumes.’

According to a company announcement released late yesterday, the ESA signed with the government gives Pancon an exclusive period of at least 18 months, extendable for three years, with a right to convert to a long-term production sharing contract (PSC) with the Maltese government.

The announcement comes not long after the news that Hardman Resources, also of Australia, is to begin its own oil exploration activities next year.

The now finalised agreement with Pancon follows an initial Memorandum of Understanding, which it had signed with the Maltese government in February of this year.

Pancon explained that the nearby waters of Tunisia and Libya, with strikingly similar seismic characteristics to the area in question, contain major world-class commercial producing oil and gas fields.

Amongst the largest of these is the Bouri oilfield - reported to contain reserves of some 3.7 billion barrels of oil. Meanwhile, the Ashtart oil and Cretaceous Miskar gas fields – also holding the same characteristics as the offshore area being investigated by Pancon, range from 200 million barrels to over one trillion cubic feet of gas.

However, Pancon reports that Tunisia is understood to have claimed a portion of the western part of one of the areas covered by the ESA as being in Tunisian rather than Maltese territorial waters.

The current area of focus lies within a portion of Area 5, which reportedly has only been claimed by Malta. Discussions to reach an agreement on the Malta-Tunisian boundaries are believed to be under way.

Pancon has reportedly completed the acquisition, processing and preliminary interpretation of a 75 kilometre seismic survey to evaluate the size and characteristics of a number of Cretaceous to Eocene age complex features, which had first been observed in the only previously existing seismic line in Block 5.

On preliminary interpretation, the bioherm/reef features were found to be large and extend past the outer seismic lines to the north, with the exception of one feature which appears to be fully closed within the seismic grid. However, the structures require further seismic verification.

Following the full review of all existing data, the venture will undertake further geophysical programs to refine the extent and size of the known bioherm/reef complexes as well as exploring for other features. The first new seismic is expected to prioritise areas for more detailed seismic surveys and for potential drilling targets.

The Business Times, Network House, Vjal ir-Rihan San Gwann SGN 07
Tel: (356) 382741-3, 382745-6 | Fax: (356) 385075 | e-mail: editorial@networkpublications.com.mt