Oil blocks 'only for best'
Manama, June 14, 2007
International firms bidding to explore for oil off Bahrain are being subjected to stringent scrutiny to ensure they are up to the job.
Seventy-eight firms have so far indicated an interest in oil exploration in four offshore blocks, opened to bids by the Bahrain government.
The blocks, which comprise Bahrain's entire open offshore acreage, are proving much sought-after, Oil and Gas Affairs Minister Dr Abdulhussain Mirza said yesterday.
He was speaking on the sidelines of an event held by the National Oil and Gas Authority (Noga) to launch a new code of conduct for staff.
'The process is progressing very well and so far more than 70 companies have expressed interest,' said Dr Mirza, who is also the Noga chairman.
'The closing date for submitting bids for the offshore blocks is September 17 and a website is open for companies to express their interest,' he said.
'So far 59 companies have used the website to approach us for information and 19 have asked for additional data,'
Dr Mirza said Noga was putting each company through a stringent application process in order to weed out those which lacked the qualities necessary to develop new oil fields.
'When they apply through the website we assess each company and if we do not think they are qualified, we do not give them the data,' he explained.
Dr Mirza said he did not want to release any names, given the high level of competition in the regional oil industry.
He first announced the opening of the four blocks to bids from international oil companies at the Middle East Oil and Gas Show (MEOS) 2007, held in Bahrain this March.
Dr Mirza revealed then that the country was considering various commercial frameworks for partnering with global oil companies in the redevelopment of both its light and heavy oil reserves, as well as its gas reserves.
International firms would be able to provide the technology and know-how required by the project, he said at the time.
Any winning bidder faced the risk of exploration proving abortive, but would share the profits in the event commercial quantities of oil were discovered, said Dr Mirza.
He also revealed yesterday that Bahrain was in pole position to be the recipient of any new exports of natural gas by Qatar, which has the world's third largest reserves.
Qatar has suspended exports while it studies its own needs, which is expected to take two years.
'Negotiations are still going on with Qatar. At the moment they are undertaking a technical study to see what they can still export, because they have committed themselves to a large quantity for domestic use, said Dr Mirza.
'This will take two years, but after that they have said Bahrain will have priority for the export of gas,' he said.
He also revealed that Iran has agreed in principal to export gas to Bahrain and the two countries are now forming technical committees to take the next steps towards this end.
Dr Mirza had earlier delivered the keynote address at an event launching a new code of conduct for the employees of Noga and firms which fall under its jurisdiction, including Bapco and GPIC.
'This new code of conduct is to make employees aware that there are certain behaviours that are expected of them - there are some actions which are encouraged and some which are discouraged,' he said.
Dr Mirza explained the new code collected relevant clauses of Bahrain's constitution, labour law and other civil service laws in order to safeguard the safety, security, health and working environment of petrochemical industry employees.
He also said the code strictly outlined unacceptable behaviour, including the taking of gifts that could influence decision-making, the sharing of corporate secrets and embezzlement.
'Some employees do things without knowing they are not acceptable,' said Dr Mirza.
'They may take