Karachi: Due to a decline in easy and big hydrocarbon finds in the country’s known basins, Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL) has taken up the challenge to venture into risk prone yet prospective frontier areas to increase its hydrocarbon reserve base and open up new plays for exploration.

As a result, since 2009, 13 exploratory wells have been drilled in Balochistan alone. PPL recently achieved a historic milestone with the discovery of significant gas reserves from Morgandh X-1 in Margand Block, Balochistan on the Kalat plateau. Notably, this was the westernmost discovery in Pakistan, opening up a new sub-basin for future exploration. Further deepening up of Morgandh X-1 resulted in a longer gas bearing column of about one kilometre, indicating larger reserves potential than estimated earlier which will be firmed up based on appraisal wells. The discovered column of gas along with map indicates a volume close to one trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of gas.

This will also pave the way for attracting interest from foreign Exploration and Production (E&P) companies to invest in frontier exploration and supplement the efforts of public sector companies, such as PPL which has always provided required impetus.

With a portfolio of 48 exploration blocks and 59 fields and discoveries, PPL made a record number of 11 discoveries in one year during 2018-19 with a further two in 2019-20, achieving a reserves replacement ratio of 110 percent.

“E&P business is cost, technology-and risk-intensive with a long gestation period, especially for gas. These are compounded in frontier areas with mountainous terrain, where access, security and infrastructure issues are major hurdles. Our success in Morgandh suggests our conviction.,” highlights Moin Raza Khan, MD & CEO, PPL.

Khan clearly knows his business. A seasoned petroleum explorationist, he has significantly contributed to the country’s E&P sector. During his career of over 37 years, he has been responsible for 9 percent of discovered gas in Pakistan (about 5.3 Tcf gas) through more than 30 discoveries.

The momentum for recent successful endeavours started back in 2009 by a team led by Khan, then General Manager Exploration, when PPL increased its portfolio by acquiring 14 blocks and another 11 in the 2013-bidding round, adding around 48,000 sq. km acreage.

“PPL has drilled 63 exploratory wells since 2012, resulting in 22 discoveries in operated areas with a success ratio of 35 percent adding about 2.764 Tcf gas and 127 Mbbls oil in place,” says Khan.

Among these, 11 discoveries were made in Gambat South Block acquired in 2009 which currently produces over 100 Bcf gas, 1100 bbl oil and 15 M tonnes LPG per day through three producing fields.

On the production front, PPL maintained about 1 Bcfde despite significant natural decline from mature fields, while keeping up the financial performance with the highest-ever profit of Rs 62 billion made in PPL’s history during 2018-2019.

Also, the company’s operations have resulted in substantial foreign exchange saving in 2018-2019 with significant contribution to national exchequer which was equivalent to USD 3.8 billion and Rs. 65 billion, respectively.

“The last two years have been challenging in realigning our operational priorities to give renewed focus on rigorous exploration efforts in frontier areas as well as diversifying in the mining sector through Bolan Mining Enterprises, for which several projects are in the pipeline.  Besides, organizational and human resource course correction, snagging company performance and management cohesion has also been carried out,” he adds.