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SOUTH EASTERN EUROPE: Petrom took over Total’s stake in the Han Asparuh block in the Bulgarian Black Sea and now controls 100% of the block


The Bulgarian government approved the exit of the French from Total from the Han Asparuh crude oil and gas exploration perimeter, by transferring the stake to the local subsidiary OMV, which is controlled by Petrom. Thus, Petrom, which had become the operator last year, is now the sole shareholder of the block.

OMV Offshore Bulgaria GmbH Austria will become the sole holder of the agreement for the exploitation of oil and natural gas in the 1-21 Han Asparuh block in the Black Sea, after the Council of Ministers allowed Total E&P Bulgaria to transfer its 57.14% share of the project to OMV Offshore Bulgaria GmbH, reports the Bulgarian press agency BTA.

Following the transfer, OMV Offshore Bulgaria now owns a 100% stake, according to the same source. OMV Offshore Bulgaria is owned by Omv Petrom.

By Wednesday’s decision of the Bulgarian government, the exploration period in the oil agreement is extended by 23 months for reasons of force majeure, namely the war in Ukraine and the withdrawal of Total E&P Bulgaria from the project, the press agency also reports. Within one month, the Minister of Energy in Sofia will sign the additional documents required as a result of Total’s exit from the agreement and OMV Offshore Bulgaria taking over 100% of its rights and obligations.

The French company TotalEnergies and the Romanian OMV Petrom were partners in the offshore block 1-21 Han Asparuh, located in deep waters in the Bulgarian sector of the western part of the Black Sea. It covers an area of ​​14,220 square km, with depths of up to 2,200 m and is next to the Romanian Neptun Deep perimeter where the first gas will be extracted in 2027.

Last year, OMV Petrom took over the status of operator of the block. “We continue to strengthen our position in the Black Sea. We have taken over the role of operator and will continue the exploration activity in the Han Asparuh exploration perimeter in Bulgaria,” Petrom said in its annual report. Now, it is the only company that will explore and possibly exploit hydrocarbon resources, unless it co-opts another partner to enter the project

The exploration contract for the block was awarded in 2012 by the Government of Bulgaria. TotalEnergies, which has an operator at the time, announced the discovery of oil resources in 2016. After Spanish firm Repsol gave up its 30% stake in the project, Total owned 57% and Petrom 43%. The companies received a two-year extension in 2022, until 2024, of the oil and natural gas exploration permit.

Last summer, TotalEnergies EP Bulgaria CEO Yves Le Stunff said the Han Asparuh perimeter is estimated to have the potential to produce a total of 13 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from two fields.

The Vinekh field, located near Turkish waters, is expected to produce about 5 billion cubic meters of natural gas per year from 2030 to 2040, and then 3 billion cubic meters per year over the next decade, Le Stunff told the Bulgarian Parliamentary Committee on Energy. The Krum field is expected to produce 8 billion cubic meters per year between 2031 and 2044, rising to 4 billion cubic meters per year by 2050, according to Le Stunff’s presentation.

The project partners plan to start exploratory drilling for natural gas in the Han Asparuh block in the second quarter of 2024, Le Stunff said at the time. Alternative exploratory drilling work is also planned, with each exploratory drilling process expected to cost around US$100 million (€91.2 million), the French company official added

If the initial initial drilling is successful, appraisal drilling will be conducted in 2025, with a view to starting production around 2030, the Total official said at the time.


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