ONGC begins drilling off Kochi; results in 100 days

The Oil and Natural Gas Corporation on Sunday started drilling operations in the Kerala-Konkan basin off Kochi. R S Sharma, chairman and managing director of ONGC said after the launch of operations that early results of the ultra deep oil exploration would be available in 100 days.

Talking to journalists after inaugurating 'spudding', the beginning of drilling, in the basin on Sunday, Sharma said ONGC had identified the area as Cochin Offshore, which is 70 nautical miles from the Cochin coast. He added that ONGC plans to carry out exploration activities to a depth of 6,500 metres, making it the first time that ultra deep explorations are being carried out in the region.

ONGC is engaged in exploratory activities in the Kerala-Konkan offshore since 1977 and over this period 12 exploratory wells have been drilled in the basin. However, a commercial hydrocarbon strike remains elusive in spite of few wells giving hydrocarbon indications.

Nine of the 12 wells are in the shallow water, where exploration activities do not go beyond a depth of 400 metres. The results of the shallow water exploration activities were not encouraging, Sharma said. Now, two exploratory wells are being dug in the ultra deep waters.

D K Pande, ONGC's director (exploration), said that in the first phase, drilling operations will be carried out to a depth of 2,080 metres and this process is expected to be completed within a month.

Pande said the area intended to be covered by the operation is around 55 sq km. ONGC has plans to start ultra deep drilling in a nearby location and the details of the project will be worked out based on the outcome of the present exploration, Pande said. He added that if oil is struck, it would take six-seven years to begin commercial production