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Sri Lanka wants more players in oil race

[AFP, Saturday, 12 December 2009 12:26 No Comment]

Sri Lanka plans to offer three more blocks off the island’s northwestern shores for oil exploration, the government said on Saturday.

"We need more players in the oil exploration race and the government plans to call for tenders for three more blocks off the Gulf of Mannar early next year," Petroleum Resources Minister A.H.M. Fowzie told AFP.

Cairn India, a unit of Britain’s Cairn Energy Plc, began a 100 million-dollar seismic survey off Sri Lanka’s northwestern coast earlier in the week to explore for crude oil.

Cairn said it hopes to complete the survey by March and start drilling in the first half of 2011.

Fowzie said previous seismic data had showed the potential for the discovery of more than one billion barrels of oil in the Mannar Basin but there have been no finds yet.

Sri Lanka awarded Cairn one of eight blocks totalling 3,000 square kilometres (1,158 square miles) in 2008. In 2007, India and China were given one block each but neither has begun exploration.

With the island just emerging from the end of a 37-year Tamil separatist war, Fowzie is hopeful of attracting more players.

Sri Lanka produces no oil and spent 3.4 billion dollars on importing crude last year.

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