(In 10th paragraph, corrects total amount invested to $12 billion from $2.4 billion)
* Turkmenistan owns 32 licence oil blocks in Caspian
* State oil firm Turkmenneft produces most of Turkmen crude
* Dubai-based Dragon Oil plans to invest $1 bln until 2015
* Foreign oil majors keep eyes riveted on Turkmen riches
By Marat Gurt
ASHGABAT, Oct 18 (Reuters) - Hydrocarbon-rich Turkmenistan will attract this year $3.8 billion in investments from its production sharing agreements (PSAs) with foreign firms developing oilfields in the Caspian, a senior state official said on Thursday.
Rising investment in Turkmenistan’s oil-rich Caspian shelf indicates growing interest by foreign oil firms to develop deep-lying but promising riches in the sea, while the state has been reluctant to admit Western companies to its onshore resources.
Official data put last year’s investment in the Caspian Sea shelf at $2.1 billion
Turkmenistan, better known as Central Asia’s largest natural gas producer and one of the world’s largest holders of “the blue fuel”, produces annually around 10 million tonnes of crude (about 200,000 barrels per day), with state oil concern Turkmenneft accounting for most of the oil output.
“Our forecasts show that investments in Turkmenistan’s sector of the Caspian Sea shelf are set to total $3.8 billion,” Ashirguly Begliev, deputy chairman of the state agency for the use and management of hydrocarbon resources, told an investment conference.
The Turkmen sector of the Caspian comprises 32 licence blocks. Two of them are being developed and another three are being explored.
The government estimates its Caspian oil reserves at 12 billion tonnes of crude and more than 6 trillion cubic metres of natural gas. However, the country’s hydrocarbon riches in the sea lie at big depths and demand large-scale investment.
Apart from state-owned Turkmenneft, several foreign companies are also drilling within the framework of their PSAs with the government, including Dubai-based Dragon Oil and Malaysian state oil company Petronas.
Turkmenistan-focused Dragon Oil plans to invest up to $1 billion until 2015 in developing the Caspian Sea shelf, the company’s chief operating officer, Hussain Al Ansari, said earlier on Thursday.
The company, controlled by Dubai’s Emirates National Oil Company, had invested about $12 billion in Turkmenistan between 2000 and June 2012, he told the same investment conference.
He said Dragon Oil also confirmed its plans to achieve a production growth rate of between 10 and 15 percent in 2012.
Dragon Oil remained on target to reach the 100,000 bpd level in 2015, the company said in a statement.
Dragon Oil’s output had risen more than tenfold from a 7,000 bpd in 2000 to 71,751 bpd at the end of 2011, Al Ansari said.
Several international majors, including Total, Chevron, ConocoPhillips and ExxonMObil, are vying for some of the undeveloped offshore oil blocks. (Writing by Dmitry Solovyov; editing by James Jukwey)