BBC News on March 12, 2013, reported that anticipation of a big oil find off the coast of the Falkland Islands is once again reaching fever pitch. Excerpts below:

A drilling rig from the Scottish Highlands, the Ocean Guardian, is being towed by tug to the North Falkland Basin, widely considered the most promising of the four areas licensed for exploration.

Desire Petroleum, one of the firms that has contracted the Ocean Guardian rig, told the BBC it would be making no comment until the start of drilling next week and referred all inquiries to the British Foreign Office.

Desire Petroleum’s website talks of “excellent oil source rock” and “significant gas potential” in the six licence areas it holds.

It estimates a “potential” of 3.5 billion barrels of oil and nine trillion cubic feet of natural gas down there, ready to be extracted.

Desire is also co-operating with another firm, Rockhopper Exploration, which has “farmed in” to two of Desire’s licences while operating four more of its own, all in the North Falkland Basin. Both firms plan to drill a number of wells using the Ocean Guardian.

Rockhopper reckons that 4.3 billion barrels of oil lie in its licence areas, two of which were previously held by Royal Dutch Shell.

Four other firms are in the game, including Falkland Oil and Gas (FOG), which has brought in mining giant BHP Billiton as a partner.

FOG believes its top four prospects alone could yield eight billion barrels, with tens of billions more lurking elsewhere in its licence areas.

It, too, plans to use the Ocean Guardian rig to drill what will be the first well in the East Falklands Basin, also known as the Falklands Plateau.

In the North Falkland Basin, the waters are relatively shallow, giving a drilling depth of 1,500ft (500m) or less.

But in the eastern and southern basins, the drilling depths are likely to be up to 9,000ft.

An oil bonanza would clearly make a big difference to the lives of the 3,000-odd inhabitants of the Falklands, whose livelihood currently depends on fishing licences, cruise ship visits and sheep-farming.


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