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Oil and gas major BP and its partner State Oil Company of the Republic of Azerbaijan (SOCAR) have begun drilling in the Shafag-Asiman block, offshore Caspian Sea in the Azerbaijan sector.

BP is the operator of the Shafag-Asiman block with 50% interest, while the remaining 50% is with SOCAR.

The offshore block is located about 125km to the South-East of Baku and covers an area of some 1,100km².

Located in water depths of 650m to 800m, it is 60km from Shah Deniz and 145km from the Sangachal terminal.

Exploration drilling in the offshore block began with the spudding of the SAX01 well. The companies say this is the first drilled in the contract area. A 3D seismic acquisition survey was conducted across this area in 2012.

BP Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey regional president Gary Jones said: “We are excited and proud to be embarking on this first exploration well on Shafag-Asiman, a structure which has significant potential for a large-scale gas discovery.

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“A great deal of preparation has been made to assure a safe and robust drilling programme.”

BP said that the exploration well is planned to be drilled to a depth of around 7,000m using the Heydar Aliyev semi-submersible rig, operated by SOCAR’s Caspian Drilling Company (CDC).

It also said that it expects drilling activity to take place for nine months.

SOCAR president Rovnag Abdullayev said: “The exploration drilling will allow to fully uncover the block’s potential. We are proud that today Azerbaijani companies, SOCAR’s business units, provide all key services, including the construction of platforms and jackets as well as drilling, for such complex projects, as Shah Deniz, Azeri-Chirag- Gunashli and Shafag-Asiman.”

In October 2010, BP signed a production-sharing agreement (PSA) with SOCAR for the joint exploration and development of the Shafag-Asiman offshore block.