Oil show
30 June, 2011
Oil show

Georgia is an granted site for discovering potential oil and gas deposits and the country could enjoy commercial benefits from the hidden treasure if Georgian government paid due attention to exploration works, the sector pundits say. 

The recent oil show near Poti, Georgian Black Sea outlet, triggered a series of talks on confirmed oil deposit discovery in the Georgian media early this June. The Russian-based ScanEx Research & Development Center within the framework of the Black Sea oil pollution monitoring program

detected natural oil sources near Poti. However, some Georgian media sources reported the news that scientists “discovered” an oil deposit near Poti. Georgian government seems indifferent to the potential treasure.

Zurab Mgeladze, Head of Oil Department at the Technical University of Georgia, and also an Academician of several academies of natural sciences including Georgian, Russian and international ones, finds the alleged oil deposit discovery futile. However, he accentuates that Georgia is really acknowledged [by number of scientific researches implemented starting 30s of the past century by both Soviet and foreign pundits] as potential site for oil and gas fields.

“I was senior advisor to the American-based Anadarko [that aimed to explore oil deposit in the Black Sea territory of Georgia] in the field of geologic exploration in late 90s and based on a comprehensive regional research, we spotted four big territories/potential oil deposits in the Black Sea where we found oil seeps. This ScanEx oil seep coincides with oil seeps we mapped in 2000 but we did not trumpet it was a deposit discovery because it was not. Oil seeps and even a source where the oil originates are not identified as deposits in geology,” Mgeladze explained to Georgian Journal. “It is a geological process, oil never accumulates and makes a deposit in the place where it takes its source, it migrates through the earth layers till some firm formation [with no pores] “catches” it and oil starts accumulating into deposit. And the oil seeps on the surface of water or earth just bespeaks of its migration process and that somewhere near this oil show must be either a source or a deposit. The Caspian Sea is full of such oil seeps but nobody pays attention to it, it is not commercially profitable to gather them.”

Mgeladze presumes that the recent agitation over oil deposit discovery near Poti is a translation mistake backed by comments of non-professionals for the Russian ScanEx news quite clearly indicates on “source” not “deposit” existence.

However that never means that Georgia has no carbon resource potential. Even prior to research of Anadarko, that quit exploration works finally because it was too expensive and risky [oil exploration works cost more than USD 100 million in the sea bed while on-land exploration takes just USD 6-8 million] Georgia was acknowledged to be a carbon site due to a simple thing that the entire country including the Black Sea bed stands on oil/gas inclusive geological area. The east Georgia belongs to big geological oil/gas province incorporating Azerbaijan, Caspian Sea and Turkmenistan. While the west Georgia belongs to smaller Eastern Black Sea Oil and Gas Circuit.

A big Samgori-Patardzeuli deposit was discovered in 1974 adjacent to Tbilisi pumping 3.3 million tons of oil per year in 1981-83 however due to incorrect exploitation terms it was closed. Only 54 thousand tons of oil and 16 million cubic meters of gas are extracted from few smaller deposits in Georgia today. A group of experts headed by Mgeladze believes new bigger deposits are in store and exploration works must go ahead. But Georgian government disappointed by the fact that no new deposit was discovered for more than a decade sticks to a nonchalant policy in oil and gas exploration sector. And only thanks to fund of Catholicos-Patriarch of Georgian Orthodox Church Mgeladze’s team carries on exploration works on insignificant funding.

The oil and gas existence was proved by picture taken by Russian specialist from cosmos in 1993 and backed by the Anadarko research. Based on it the estimated prognosis available in Georgia equals 2.4 billion tons of oil and 180 billion cubic meter of gas. About 1.2 billion tons of oil is commercially available out of the figure. Discovery of these resources might be a huge relief to Georgia fully dependent on imported oil and gas nowadays and experts believe deposits discovery is quite realistic thanks to state-of-the-art technologies but the cost is absolutely unaffordable to a small poor country like Georgia. The exploration works are complicated by difficult geological formation of Georgian soil and depth of the Black Sea that reasoned soviet specialists to explore simpler potential sites abundant throughout soviet empire.  But exploration of carbon resources is crucial to Georgia today and experts believe exploration works will end up by success ultimately and pay off all costs if Georgian government undertakes proper management to attracts investors and implement strong control over their operation. Exploration works brought no success starting mid-90s of the past century for the attracted investors were rather oriented on quick profit of the discovered deposits rather than exploration works and most probably did not comply with Georgian law  obliging investors to apply the most effective technologies. The loose state control allowed it to happen.

“Exploration works in Siberia and Prevolzhe were on for 50 and 35 years respectively. The latest international studies show that carbon deposits may be available even in the regions that were not acknowledged as potential sites before.  We can achieve results under proper management and state control like the best world experience. Oil field must be under the President’s control. But Georgia only weakened control, removed the Saknavtobi, the oil sector controlling body from the president’s control and put it into the energy ministry. Saknavtobi is incorporated within Gas and Oil Corporation that is responsible for pipeline system management in fact and has no idea of exploration works,” he said.

Mgeladze assesses government’s indifference equal to betrayal that deprives the country of development perspectives.

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