The drilling industry plays an important role in the oil and gas industry and has followed the course towards development with a scientific and technical approach. The Ministry of Oil has made an important decision to support and reinforce the domestic drilling industry due to its critical role in the country’s oil industry. The country’s oil and gas production must reach 5 million bpd and 1.47 billion square meters per day respectively by the end of the fifth development plan. The drilling industry becomes of great importance in achieving this goal which can be accomplished by making a 156 billion dollar investment. A total number of 140 onshore and 36 offshore drilling rigs are required to accomplish this task. Currently there are 98 onshore and offshore rigs operating in the country. This number will reach 134 rigs by next year. At the same time government and private organizations are preparing to provide 36 drilling rigs. One of the country’s great achievements in the drilling industry is guiding and navigating the Iran Amirkabir semisubmersible drilling unit in the deep waters of the Caspian Sea. One of the greatest honors of the country’s drilling industry is the discovery of the Sardar Jangal field which is a direct result of this drilling unit’s operations.
Hedayatollah Khademi, the North Drilling Company’s Managing Director stated that the Iran Amirkabir SSDU was built during sanctions and while commissioning the SSDU seemed impossible, the North Drilling Company took responsibility of this task and became the only Asian company with the technology to drill in deeps waters.
This company brought the country’s dream to reality by discovering a reservoir while drilling in a depth of 2419 meters from the seabed. NDCO executes other drilling operations in other locations of the country as well as Turkmenistan’s shallow waters in the Caspian Sea. The drilling operations in the shallow waters of the Caspian Sea in Turkmenistan’s waters started in 2005. More than 100,000 meters of drilling has been carried out since then without any accidents.
Below is an interview held with Mr. Hedayatollah Khademi, North Drilling Company’s Managing Director.
Q: NDCO is the only company in the Caspian Sea operating in depths of more than 700 meters. What difficulties do you face operating in these depths?
A: there are so many challenges and difficulties that no one could believe Iran would discovery rich hydrocarbon resources with the strict sanctions imposed on it. I should mention that foreign companies left the Iran Amirkabir SSDU before its commissioning due to the new sanctions, but domestic engineering and experts stepped in and got the job done.
Q: what are the characteristics of this SSDU?
A: this SSDU which lead to discovering the new gas reserves in the Caspian Sea can carry out drilling operations in depths of 1030 meters and 6000 meters from the seabed while floating on water. The SSDU weights 14,000 tons and can continue exploration activities in the southern deep waters of the Caspian Sea. Approximately 103 people operate on the SSDU and 180 people onshore are responsible for managing and supporting the SSDU.
Q: can the SSDU’s operations result in the discovery of oil in the Caspian Sea?
A: the SSDU’s drilling operations continued for the discovery of oil reserves after the discovery of the huge gas field in the Caspian Sea. Iran Amirkabir started its operations in February 2010. It was then determined that there are extensive hydrocarbon resources in the region. Second to none in Asia, the Iran Amirkabir SSDU is one of the most advanced drilling rigs in the world and it is currently drilling in the Caspian Sea and as a direct result from the drilling operations, we have reached a gas field in the depth of 2419 meters. The discovery of gas shows desirable outcomes for the future. The drilling operations are still ongoing and the exact amount of as in the Cheliken-1 layer is still unknown. Regarding the possibility of discovering oil, based on the preliminary geological and seismic data, there is a chance of reaching oil in the Cheliken-4 layer in depths of 5200 meters. I should emphasize that drilling in deep waters is an extremely difficult task. Iran is the only Asian country with this technology. China and India have so far attempted to drill in depths of 300 meters. This reservoir has the potential of 100 development wells. In order to fully utilize the new exploratory well, new development and descriptive wells will be drilled in the future. The SSDU benefits from an R.O.V (Remotely Operated Vehicle), one of the world’s most advanced technologies. It is remotely controlled and operates in deep waters. Iranian experts are using this modern technology very well.
Q: how much oil are the neighboring countries harvesting from the Caspian Sea?
A: Kazakhstan is harvesting 2 million bpd, considering 100 USD per barrel, that’s a 200 million dollar income. Azerbaijan harvests 1.2 million barrels and a 120 million dollar income. Russia and Turkmenistan harvest 300,000 and 200,000 barrels per day making 30 million and 20 million dollar respectively. Iran has not had a share in the Caspian Sea, but hopefully that will change and Iran will gain its valuable share as it continues its operations.
Q: you are one of the leading companies in the discovery of the Sardar Jangal gas field. Please give us some insight on that.
A: the gas field was discovered in a depth of 2419 meters. Although it is still not clear whether it is a reservoir or not, it makes no difference dye to the extremely high pressure o the gas. The studies on the well are not final yet. The exploratory well must be used to further identify the well. However it is estimated that there is oil in the depth of 5200 meters in the Cheleken-4 layer. This field’s layers are named Cheliken and are numbered from 1 to 8. Drilling operations have drilled Cheliken-1. Cheliken-4 is scheduled to be drilled in the next 8 months. Oil will be reached at this level. We have advanced 61 meters into the reservoir. The gas pressure is extremely high, approximately 4800 PSI.
Q: are there other deep water drilling operations in the world?
A: currently other counties are drilling in 3000 meter deep waters and it is cost effective for them. Considering the conditions of the Caspian Sea, economical feasibility comes into play. Much evaluations and studies have been done on this matter. Studies prove this plan to be economically justifiable. It is he Iranian people’s right to attain their national treasures. So there are no worries and we will continue our operations until we too benefit from our share in the sea.
Q: where is the geographical position of this field?
A: this filed is located 250 km from Neka and it is in Iran’s territorial waters. During the first days of deploying the SSDU there were some conflicts between Iran and Azerbaijan, but those conflicts were quickly resolved. There are no worries anymore.
Q: part of the Iran Alborz field in the Caspian Sea belongs to Iran. Do you plan on developing that field?
A: this field is shared between Iran and Azerbaijan. Neither of the two counties has made any attempts to develop it. Any attempt to do so must be with the agreement of both sides. After developing the Sardar Jangal reservoir which has the potential of 100 development wells, it will be the Iran Alborz field’s turn. Unless officials decide to manufacture or rent another drilling rig for drilling the Alborz field.
Q: how effective are the western sanctions on the North Drilling Company’s drilling operations in the Caspian Sea?
A: fortunately NDCO is not facing any problems providing parts for its rigs. Spare parts and equipment are supplied from domestic and international markets.
Q: what about when the foreign companies left?
A: there were numerous problems. But what matted was our national determination to attain what was rightfully ours; our national wealth. All the equipments on the SSDU were protected with lock codes which would expire in 4 months after they left. These codes are renewed every 6 months. If we didn’t succeed in breaking these locks, we would have to convince the foreign companies to come back to Iran and renew the codes for another 6 months which would have been impossible considering ht sanctions. However, our determined experts and engineers broke these locks and our operations continued in the Caspian Sea.
If a family is to lose their child, after working hard for many years to raise him and see him flourish, it would have a devastating impact on the parents. If for any reason we weren’t able to succeed in these operations and we had to leave the project unfinished, it would have been the same devastating feeling of a family losing their child. In spite of all these difficulties we put our best efforts towards achieving this goal and we succeeded in getting Iran’s share of hydrocarbon resources in the Caspian Sea.
Q: what accomplishments did the company make last year?
A: Last year, which the Supreme Leader named the year of Economic Endeavor, was a prosperous year for the company. Our experts and engineers were able to discover rich hydrocarbon resources in the Caspian Sea and being joy to the people of our country. Previously 46 exploratory blocks were marked in the Caspian Sea. Most of these exploratory blocks are located in the deep waters of Iran’s waters in the Caspian Sea. In order to reach this reservoir more than 2400 meters of exploratory drilling operations were carried out. What is of great importance is that this gas field is located in Iranian territorial waters. Furthermore, 1390 was the year NDCO proved its abilities to the world. Now the world knows that Iran is the only country in the region and among the few in the world with deep and semi deep water drilling technology.
Q: what are the company’s capabilities and perspectives?
A: the company has reached this position by increasing its knowledge, localizing oil and drilling industry technologies using committed and educated forces, and utilizing the most modern and advanced technologies in the world. The company’s strategies are aimed at following the fifth development plan and the country’s 20-year perspective, stable development and a long time survival with higher profitability and efficiency in mind, creating and improving technical and engineering capabilities in order to provide better services to our employers domestically and internationally, preparing to participate in international tenders and expanding our operations fleet in line with the fifth development plan and the country’s 20-year perspective in order to attain a bigger share of national and international markets. A bright future lies ahead of the company by following the aforementioned goals. We will employ all that is in our power to promote the country’s oil industry and economy to provide all that the beloved people of our country deserve are and worthy of.