BP To Begin Exploratory Drilling At Plutao-1 Field

BP said it will begin exploratory drilling at the Plutao-1 field in the ultra-deep waters offshore Angola later this week. The semisubmersible, Leiv Eiriksson is currently on location in approximately 6,709 feet of water. This exploratory well will be closely watched by other oil companies after three consecutive tests revealed dry holes, tarnishing Angola's reputation as a bountiful hydrocarbon province. "This week we are spudding the well," said BP spokesman Toby Odone. Results aren't expected for another two months, he added.

BP's first well in the ultra-deepwater block 31 came up dry late last year, sparking the beginning of a trio of drilling disappointments. More recently, ExxonMobil Corp. and Norsk Hydro reported dry wells after test drilling in nearby blocks.

Oil companies have reportedly paid over $1 billion in signing bonuses to secure the offshore acreage, with so far little to show for their outlays.

Angola is sub-Saharan Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria, pumping out about 950,000 barrels of crude a day. The country is aiming to double production by 2010. It reportedly has a drilling success rate of about 85%, well above a worldwide average closer to 50%.

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