DILI, 20 April, 2020 (TATOLI) – The joint operator of two of Timor’s “most promising” oil leases on the south coast has suspended all drilling operations, blaming the country’s State of Emergency for staff shortages.
Timor Resources’ Operations Director, Luís Pereira said the drilling rigs the company imported from the United States just two weeks ago will remain idle.
“We are officially suspending…drilling the wells on-shore, because our technicians and engineers are not able to come to Timor-Leste during the State of Emergency,” Mr Pereira told TATOLI via phone yesterday.
For the exploration in Covalima District in Timor’s south, almost all Timor Resources contracted engineers and technicians will have to come from abroad, he said.
“We will install [the rigs] once the State of Emergency period is done, since the machine is heavy and it takes one month to finish the installation, [then] testing and verification from the National Authority for Petroleum and Minerals (ANPM) before drilling is begin,” he said.
From her office in Brisbane, Australia, Timor Resources CEO Suellen Osborne told TATOLI works are already completed on two drilling pads, with the land graded and ready to begin on May 1. But now, all civil works have ceased.
“The drilling contractors will have to come from Jakarta… the Australian managers couldn’t leave the country. So there’s no sense, no way [we could begin drilling],” she said.
She said the company was prepared for a four-month delay.
“Timor Resources has employed 44 local staff… we’ve had to stand all those local contractors down,” Ms Osborne said.
Timor’s Council of Ministers yesterday requested an extension of the Emergency Decree until May 26, instead of April 26.
Ms Osborne said the company has set a revised start date for drilling of September 1.
Timor Resources entered a joint venture with national oil company TIMOR GAP for what it describes as the “most prospective coastal block”, A and C. In total, the leases comprise some 2,000 square kilometres.
TIMOR GAP president, Francisco Monteiro, announced earlier this year the companies would drill five petroleum wells at Suai-Covalima, Betano and Maunfahi.
Related news: TIMOR GAP to begin onshore drilling in 2020
The five blocks were first mapped in 2017, with geological surveys and other studies. In October 2018 seismic tests were also conducted in Block A (Covalima and Maliana District). The business also commissioned tests using the ‘fibrosis’ system, an alternative to seismic analysis, in October at Block C, at the Betanu site.
Ms Osborne said the company “optimistically” expects Blocks A and C to hold about 40 million barrels of crude combined. But she said it would cost US $55 million in exploration drilling, and another $100 million in field development to extract it.
“At this stage it’s high-risk exploration. No drilling has been done onshore in fifty years,” she said.
But she said she’s confident the company’s “low-cost model” can deliver the project for its investors and the people of Timor.
The company has planned the first well, named Karau, will be drilled at Matai Village, in Suai District. The first drill is expected to take 30 days, once testing is completed.
That will be followed by a second well at Camanaça, in Suai City.
The onshore wells will be the first sunk in Timor-Leste in more than 40 years, dating back to the time of Portuguese rule.
Journalist: Florencio Miranda Ximenes; Robert Baird
Editors: Robert Baird, Julia Chatarina
Translation: Nelia Borges