All about oil. Nuclear threats ... yeah right
Exploration drilling could soon resume off northern Korea, after a 15-year gap. This follows the recent signing of a production sharing agreement between the government of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) and the London-based independent Aminex. The acreage awarded is the most extensive offered to date to one company, covering the entire West Sea basin in northern Korean waters, part of the East Sea offshore basin, and three onshore basins.
Over the past decade, numerous foreign oil companies have been granted smaller concessions, only to exit after limited work programs. Most were frustrated either by limited funds or the scale of data-gathering required to build on earlier exploration by Korean institutes and Soviet contractors. These exercises, conducted mainly in the 1980s and early 1990s, suggested strong potential for commercial hydrocarbon discoveries, particularly in the seas either side of the mainland.
Now, however, the DPRK is making a concerted effort to foster new activity to ease the country’s energy crisis. This situation was brought on during the 1990s through a combination of dwindling indigenous coal stocks and the withdrawal of subsidies on oil and gas imports following the break-up of the former Soviet Union. The country lacks the resources needed to pay for oil and gas at current prices - hence the recently proposed uranium enrichment program, which led to emergency talks between North Korea, its neighbors, and the US.
Aminex’s relations with the DPRK date back to an encounter with a Korean delegation in London in 1998. “They were on a fact-finding mission to see how the oil industry worked in Europe,” says the company’s CEO Brian Hall. “We had a good meeting, which resulted in our technical staff visiting Aberdeen to review their data sets.”