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Jan 2023: The country will issue 2-year oil and gas exploration licenses for up to 900 offshore blocks. New regulations have been finalised setting a framework for companies to sign an expression of interest (EOI). It held its first licensing round in 2007. One exploration block was awarded to an Indian firm that pulled out in 2015.


No significant news in 2022.


No significant news in 2021.


No significant news in 2020.


Aug 2019: The government has signed a 2-year offshore exploration deal with Total (operator, 70%) and Equinor (30%) to explore in deepwater blocks JS5 and JS6 off the eastern coast. No comment on the work program has yet been made.

Jan 2019: The Government announced that it is preparing for the competitive licensing of Exploration Block M2 in the Mannar Basin. The Block has two gas discoveries, Dorado 91 H/1z and Barracuda 1G/1, and a number of undrilled prospects.


May 2018: The Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat (PRDS) will sign agreements with Total and a subsidiary of Schlumberger for a seismic study off the east coast to evaluate prospective oil resources. Total had earlier signed a 2-year agreement to survey 50,000 sq kms off the east coast from the air.

Apr 2017: Sri Lanka will call for fresh bids for an oil exploration block off the northwest coast in the Mannar Basin where traces of natural gas were discovered in 2011. It will also enter into agreements for on and offshore exploration along the Eastern coastal belt.


May 2017: India (Petronet) and Japan could build a US$250 mm (2 mmtpa) LNG import terminal on the west coast at Kerawalapitiya, where a gas-fired power plant is also planned.

Feb 2017: The government is inviting partners to undertake the appraisal and development of gas discoveries and prospects in the ex-Cairn SL 2007-01-001, offshore Block M2 in the Mannar Basin. The block includes the Barracuda and Dorado gas/condensate discoveries. Other acreage will be released in a bid round in 4Q 2017 after planned speculative seismic surveys.


Feb 2016: Total is likely to sign an agreement with the government for the exploration of oil and gas resources off the east coast. It will start by investing about US$10 mm to acquire seismic data and has the right to negotiate for a PSA if it finds commercial quantities of oil or gas.


Jul 2015: Total is expected to be granted rights to explore off the eastern coast following the exit of Cairn from the Mannar Basin. Cairn made 2 gas discoveries; Dorado and Barracuda.

Jul 2015: Sri Lanka will call for international bids to develop an offshore gas field which has been abandoned by Cairn Energy. Cairn found gas in 3 out of 4 exploration wells.


Jun 2014: Cairn is evaluating options for monetizing the Dorado and Barracuda gas finds. First gas may be realised by 2018. The development plan for Dorado field would consist of a subsea pipeline to an onshore power plant. Meanwhile, Cairn intends to carry out appraisal drilling at Barracuda in 2015.

Jan 2014: Cairn will get one more exploratory block and will sign within a month an agreement to sell gas to power plants by 2018. Cairn discovered two gas and condensate fields, Dorado and Barracuda, in the Mannar basin. There were only two bidders for the latest auction; Cairn for M5 block in Mannar and Bonavista for Cauvery blocks C2 and C3.


Dec 2013: Cairn has reported that it could achieve with first offshore gas production as early as 2016 from its two deep water offshore discoveries, Dorado and Barracuda, in the Mannar Basin (GS notes: this timetable looks optimistic).

Sep 2013: The Petroleum Resource Development Secretariat has confirmed that ExxonMobil, Shell, Total, Eni, ONGC and Cairn have shown interest in the country's 2nd licensing round of 8 blocks in the Mannar basin and 5 in the Cauvery basin. Bids for the blocks must be submitted by the end of November 2013 with award in mid 2014.

Mar 2013: Cairn’s fourth exploration well off Sri Lanka in Block SL 2007-01-001 has been plugged and abandoned dry. Cairn’s two previous discoveries in the permit are Barracuda, which hit 24m of hydrocarbon pay, and Dorado, which hit a 25m column.

Feb 2013: The Petroleum Resources Development Secretariat (PRDS) is to launch the 2nd Sri Lankan Licensing Round in March 2013. Thirteen blocks have been designated in the Cauvery and Mannar basins to the North and West of Sri Lanka. The blocks in the Cauvery basin lie in shallow and deep waters of the Palk Straight whilst the blocks in the Mannar basin lie in deep waters of the Gulf of Mannar. The Mannar basin saw 2 discoveries by Cairn in 2011 whilst the Cauvery basin is productive in India.


Sep 2012: Exploration activity by Cairn Energy has led to two discoveries in the frontier Mannar basin off Sri Lanka. These are the first ever discoveries in Sri Lanka, establishing a new hydrocarbon province. Cairn has now entered the second phase of exploration and intends to commence an exploration drilling campaign in mid 2013.

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