Oil and gas producer Santos Ltd said it is planning a sharp increase in drilling activity in 2006.

Oil and gas producer Santos Ltd said it is planning a sharp increase in drilling activity in 2006 which will see a total of 313 wells drilled — including 25 exploration wells — up from 193 in 2005.

The planned drilling program was detailed at an investor briefing in Adelaide where Santos has its headquarters.

The independent group also reaffirmed its production guidance for 2005 of 55 mln barrels of oil equivalent (boe) with a further increase of 10 pct in 2006.

Santos said a key part of the 2006 drilling program is the start of a 160 mln aud campaign early next year in the mature Cooper Basin, inland Australia, which will aim to triple the company’s share of the basin’s oil output from the current 7,000 barrels per day over the next five years.

Meanwhile, the company said, production and reserves at the recently developed John Brookes gas project offshore Western Australia have exceeded expectations.

It said its overall production profile will continue to rise over the remainder of the decade, helped by higher oil output from the Cooper Basin, the John Brookes field and production being ramped up at the newly acquired Fairview coal seam gas project in the Australian state of Queensland.

Santos said new projects coming on stream, including the Bayu-Undan liquefied natural gas project in the Timor Sea north of Australia, will also boost output over the rest of the decade and beyond.

The company said the Timor-Bonaparte Basin has been confirmed as a core area for Santos with the LNG phase of the Bayu-Undan project coming on-stream in early 2006.

An active exploration and appraisal program is planned for the area in 2006 to follow up the recent Caldita and Lynedoch gas discoveries.

Santos will also undertake a four-well appraisal program on the Jeruk oil discovery offshore Indonesia commencing early next year.

Santos is the operator of the Jeruk field and has a 50 pct stake in the field, with Indonesia’s PT Medco Sampang holding the remaining 50 pct.

(1 usd = 1.35 aud)

Source : www.forbes.com