Russian oil major Lukoil said it has started drilling of an exploration well at the Shirotno-Rakushechnaya prospect structure north of the V.I. Grayfer oilfield. The company has also begun to study Khazri and Titonskaya features in the south of the same sea area. It is currently drilling the second well too.
Northern areas of the Caspian Sea have been the core for Lukoil's geological exploration since 1995. In 1999, the oil major began deep drilling. In total, the energy firm found ten hydrocarbons fields with proven reserves of some 7 billion barrels of oil. Some of these are massive oilfields, including V. Filanovsky, Y. Korchagin, Sarmatskoe, Khvalynskoye, and V.I. Grayfer. But Lukoil seeks to get more than just that. In late January, Vagit Alekperov, the CEO of Lukoil, wrote a letter to Vladimir Putin, saying that Lukoil's subsidiary, Lukoil Nizhnevolzhskneft, has "a shortage of new exploration projects." He therefore asked for a permit to explore three locations close to the Tyuleny Island: Tyuleny-1, Tyuleny-2, and Tyuleny-3. Lukoil has long eyed them all yet it has no access rights to the sites. Thus Alekperov has suggested adopting a simple principle. In line with it, the ministry may issue a license to carry out geological exploration of the required area without holding an auction. Yet Dmitry Kobylkin, Russia's minister for natural resources and ecology, is not at all keen to do so. He said granting exclusive rights "may be regarded by other state authorities and market participants as premature and insufficiently substantiated."