Colombo: Sri Lanka has delayed launching a tender to explore for oil off the island’s northwest coast until August, but is still aiming for exploration to begin in mid-2008, the government said on Friday.
Secretary of petroleum and petroleum resources development ministry A.P.A. Gunasekera said the tender delay was due to “unavoidable circumstances”, but did not elaborate on the issue.
The government had been planning to launch the tender this April.
The government says seismic data showed more than one billion barrels of oil off Sri Lanka’s northwest coast. If proven, the reserves would be a big boost for the country, which produces no oil and imported $2.1 billion (Rs9,660 crore then) worth in 2006.
Gunasekera said the government will call tenders for three of eight exploration areas, or blocks, identified in the Mannar Basin; of the remaining five, two had already been assigned to China and India.
Experts put the delay down to the fact that oil exploration is new to Sri Lanka, and that the government must draft rules and regulations and build up sector expertise before embarking on it.