History of Oil Exploration Activity in Yemen [Archives:2000/12/Business & Economy]

March 20 2000

By : Eng. Mohammed Al Zubeiry

Future petroleum and gas effort in the Republic should be directed towards the sedimentary Basins. The discovery of oil and gas in commercial quantities and encouraging results from geophysical and geological analysis suggest the Yemen area has great exploration potential and augurs well for future oil and gas discoveries in other parts of the sedimentary Basins.
In the 1920’s, the discovery of several oil fields in the Arabian Peninsula and the Gulf prompted many oil companies to expand their efforts to new locations. As a result, began to look to Yemen as possible new sources of oil. The first detailed research for oil in Yemen took place in 1938 when the Iraq Petroleum Company (IPC), at that time a British- owned company, conducted a geological surveys in Hadramout and Mahara. Although the IPC collected seismic data, no wells were drilled at that time.
In 1953, when a German firm signed an agreement with Yemen government to carry out geophysical and geological exploration in a coastal zone north of Hodeida. The company also conducted a survey of the Salif region of Yemen, although no wells were drilled in either of these parts. However, gravity and magnetic studies were conducted at that time.
Yemen Shell exploration, a subsidiary of Deutsche Shell, was awarded a license in 1974 for a 19,000 Sq km offshore acreage in the Red Sea between the port of Hodeida and the Saudi border. It relinquished that license at the beginning of 1977 and was awarded another tract in July 1977. Exploration operations were no more successful in that acreage than the first, and the company relinquished it in 1981. And also, in August 1975 the YNPC signed an agreement with Sibens Oil and Gas of Canada to explore for hydrocarbons in a178,000 sq km area and around Socotra Island for six years. At the end of 1975 the Soviet concern Technoexport agreed to begin preliminary exploration work in a 10,000 sq km area, while a Cuban team was also brought in to explore a 37,000 sq km zone in the Thamud region near he Saudi boarder. Altogether eight wildcat were drilled but no oil shows were reported.
After many years of disappointing results, finally in July 1984, the first commercial oil discovery was made by Yemen – Hunt Oil Company in the Marib – Al-Jawf Basin. In addition, in 1987 an oil discovery in the Ayad – Masilah Basin – Hadramout by Canadian Occidental (Canadian).
All these discoveries put Yemen on the world oil & gas map. Since this discovery Yemen has become one of the most active areas for Hydrocarbon exploration in the Arabian Peninsula, brought into sight the promising hydrocarbon potential in this country, and any way has forced exploration to rethink their ideas about this region’s Petroleum geology. It has raised the question: Are there any more oil rich areas still to be discovered in Yemen?
It is worth mentioning that petroleum concession activity map covers 415426 sq km ( see chart) divided in to 59 sectors which constitutes about 80% of the total area of Yemen.
Report Exploration Activities, from Internet: www. momr.gov.ye.
Ministry of Oil and Mineral Resources, Years of endeavor for more prosperous Yemen. The Preparatory Committee of Oil & Gas Conference, 1998; page 14.
Deep gratitude to the Ministry of Oil & Mineral Resources and the Petroleum Exploration & Production Board for help and information.