Sonde seeks partner to develop Zarat

Canadian independent Sonde Resources is looking for a partner to help fund its development of a block off North Africa, either through a joint venture or a stake sale, the company’s chief executive said.

Sonde announced on Monday that it had received a one-year extension on the first phase of its exploration efforts in the Zarat field, located on the Joint Oil block – formerly known as the 7th of September block – which straddles the Tunisia-Libya maritime border.

The extension will give Sonde more time to secure funding for the project, Sonde chief executive Jack Schanck told Upstream.

“We are looking for joint venture partners, or to sell stakes in or all or part of the block,” he said.

The company is unlikely to sell the entire block, he added, “but we’ll listen to offers”.

He said “a few people” have called Sonde expressing interest in the block. The company is preparing to launch a formal process for interested partners and will hold a board meeting later this week to nail down the details, he said.

Sonde hopes to have a partner in place within six months. The company is obligated to continue its exploration operations on the 780,000-acre Joint Oil block by September of this year.

The Calgary-based company has drilled one appraisal well on the block, the Zarat North-1, which hit 240 feet of net pay in a Tertiary-age El Gueria limestone.

Sonde is “pursuing a plan of development around that well”, Schanck said. The next step will be drilling a probe called Faisel-1, the second in a three-well commitment on the block.

The extension will grant Sonde access to the block through 23 December 2013.

Sonde also plans to fulfill another obligation on the exploration licence with the completion of a 500-square-kilometre 3D seismic survey, expected by the end of this month.

“The extension allows us flexibility in fulfilling our obligations under the exploration production and sharing agreement and working towards a production license around Zarat,” Schanck said in a statement.

The Joint Oil block was renamed about a month ago following the downfall of the late dictator Muammar Gaddafi, who originally named the block in honor of the day he took power in Libya, Schanck said.

Joint Oil is a coalition equally owned by Tunisian and Libyan entities.

Sonde also said it had paid a $12.5 million obligation known as the “Mariner Swap Agreement”, essentially a bonus payment for the block that was deferred until August 2011, the chief executive explained.

Sonde was unable to make the payment when it was due as a result of force majeure in the wake of sanctions against Libya during that country’s civil war last year.

(Source: Upstream Online)

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