* Tenders likely in April
* Commercial use of Adriatic wells seen in 2019-20
* Croatia wants to become gas exporter
By Igor Ilic
ZAGREB, Jan 21 (Reuters) - Croatia will publish tenders for offshore gas and oil exploration in the central and southern Adriatic in the second quarter of this year, probably in April, after a survey revealed promising deposits there, its economy minister said.
“Before that, we will define the concession blocks that we will offer to all the companies interested in gas and oil exploration and exploitation in the Adriatic,” Minister Ivan Vrdoljak said on Tuesday.
“This is an extremely important project, which could turn Croatia into an important energy hub,” he added.
He made the comments after Norwegian company Spectrum this week completed a five-month seismic survey off Croatia.
“Croatia has all the prerequisites for a successful tender, including new hydrocarbon systems and a moderate sea depth,” Spectrum Chief Executive Rune Eng was quoted as saying in a statement released by the economy ministry.
An industry source, who declined to be named, said the deposits should be similar to those in neighbouring Italy, which has more than 1,100 wells.
“It’s the same sedimentary basin. What’s been found in Italy should be found in Croatia - gas in the north, oil in the south,” the source said.
The economy ministry also said it would open a data room in February that companies interested in Adriatic Sea exploration can access. The processing of data from the Adriatic survey will be completed in April.
“It is evident that there are promising deposits of hydrocarbons (in the Adriatic), and we hope to have the first commercial quantities of gas and oil ready in 2019-2020,” Vrdoljak said.
Croatia currently obtains about 60 to 65 percent of its annual gas needs from its own resources in the northern Adriatic and onshore in the north of the country. Vrdoljak recently said he believed it could become a gas exporter in several years.
Croatia, the newest European Union member, imports some 80 percent of the oil products it needs.