Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan's dream of the cash-strapped country becoming self-sufficient in oil has been dashed after no reserves were discovered in the Arabian Sea off the Karachi coast, media reports said Sunday.
The drilling work at Kekra-1 well in deep sea near Karachi has been stopped after no oil or gas reservoir could be found, according to Special Assistant to Prime Minister Khan on Petroleum Nadeem Babar.
Pakistan was hopeful of finding large oil and gas reserves in its territorial waters in the Arabian Sea. US oil giant Exxon Mobil, Italy's ENI and a couple other companies were involved in drilling an ultra-deep oil well.
Mr Babar told Geo News that the process of drilling up to more than 5,500 meters was completed on Kekra-1 (Indus G-Block) off Karachi coast.
Mr Babar said the office of DG Petroleum Concessions has been apprised of the results of drilling.
He said that the cost of drilling project, which has now been abandoned, remained over $100 million.
In March, Mr Khan had said Pakistan would not need to import oil after reserves were found near Karachi coast.
"We are hopeful of finding large reserves of gas and oil in the sea near Karachi. The nation should pray for this and I will soon share good news regarding this," Mr Khan had said.
"God willing the reserves will be so large that we will not need to import any oil," he said.
Mr Khan said he believes that if big oil reserves are discovered, most of Pakistan''s economic problems will be addressed and then there will be no stopping in the country's progress.
Around four months ago, Italian firm ENI, the operator of the Kekra-1 offshore block, started drilling in a joint venture with US firm ExxonMobil, one of the world''s largest oil and gas firm, and the Pakistan state-owned Oil and Gas Development Company Limited (OGDCL) and Pakistan Petroleum Limited (PPL).
Each of the four firms has a 25 per cent participating interest in the block.
The drilling was carried out in ultra-deep waters some 280 kilometres away from the Karachi coast.
The well was spudded on January 13 this year, targeting a carbonate reservoir with a prognosed total depth of 5,660 metres.
Some surveyors had found the block 'Indus-G' similar to the Indian offshore Bombay High oilfield, which produces 350,000 barrels per day of crude oil, while others described it as similar to the ones in the oil- and gas-rich Kuwait, the Express Tribune reported.
At the same time, officials say, oil and gas exploration and production is described as a "high risk- high reward" business and the failures should not be taken as a loss. "India found offshore reserves from its 'Bombay High well' after 40 attempts," the officials were quoted as saying by the Dawn News.
OGDCL spokesman Ahmed Lak said that Pakistan should continue its efforts to find hydrocarbon reserves because there was a large area where reserves had been predicted by experts.
"US firm ExxonMobile has become a working partner in the block only because of encouraging data," he said, adding that international researches had shown that hydrocarbon reserves were found in the sea facing the river basins.
"Since Indus is an ancient river with a large basin, experts do not contest the views there is a huge pocket of hydrocarbon reserve in the Arabian Sea off Sindh," Mr Lak said.
"Because the well remained dry, now it will be plugged and abandoned," said Mr Lak.
Currently, Pakistan meets only 15 per cent of its domestic petroleum needs with crude oil production of around 22 million tonnes; the other 85 per cent is met through imports.