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First gas deposits found off Sri Lanka coast

[AFP, Monday, 3 October 2011 23:12 No Comment]

Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapakse announced on Sunday that natural gas deposits had been found for the first time during exploratory drilling off the island’s coast.

The company prospecting in the area, Cairn Lanka, a fully-owned unit of Cairn India, confirmed it informed Sri Lankan authorities of a gas discovery during its first attempt to drill into the sea floor in the Mannar Basin.

Rajapakse revealed the find while making an address to council workers in the central region of Kandy, where local elections will be held on Saturday.

"President Mahinda Rajapakse in Kandy announced that Sri Lanka has found a gas field for the first time," the government information department said in a text message.

A presidential spokesman said no further details were available.

However Cairn, which began exploratory drilling in August, issued a statement later Sunday saying the discovery was made at a depth of 4,300 metres (14,000 feet) below sea level.

"Further drilling will be required to establish the commerciality of the discovery," Cairn India, formerly a unit of British exploration firm Cairn Energy, added.

Cairn started drilling in the Mannar Basin off Sri Lanka after seismic studies suggested oil and natural gas deposits.

"The block where the discovery was made is just south of the prolific oil and gas producing Cauvery Basin (of India)," Cairn spokesman Sourav Das told AFP.

Sri Lanka, which depends on imports for all its petroleum requirements, has also offered blocks to India and China.

Russians carried out the first drilling in the region in 1971 without any commercial success and the government subsequently abandoned the search until Norwegians helped with new seismic studies in the past decade.

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