19 September 2013 – Drilling for oil off the coast of Sierra Leone is underway with the launch of drilling on the SL-5-11 block in the deep water shelf of west Africa by Lukoil Overseas. The Eirik Raude drilling rig started with spudding a deep water well in the Savannah prospect. The target depth of the wildcat to be drilled within will exceed 4,700 metres, and the water depth at the drilling location is more than 2,000 metres.

Eirik Raude is the largest 5th generation self-propelled offshore drilling rig in the world. The rig has a height of 122 m, width of 85 m, deadweight of 52,500 tonnes and a transit speed of 7 knots. It has a crew of 120 people.

Lukoil Overseas entered into the production sharing agreement (PSA) for exploration and development of block SL-5-11 in June 2011 as an operator with a 49% share. The other project partners are Oranto (30%) and PanAtlantic (21%).

Block SL-5-11 covers 4,022 square kilometres on the shelf and continental slope of the Atlantic Ocean with water depth ranging from 100 to 3,300 meters. 2D and 3D seismic data was acquired on 1,500 square kilometres and this led to the identification of several prospects. From the geological point of view, the block belongs to the Sierra Leone-Liberia basin where a number of sizable oil discoveries have been made recently.

A standard contract for exploration and development of the block was concluded for the term of 30 years. The exploration program for the block includes reinterpretation of historical seismic data, an electric exploration survey and drilling of one exploration well. The current exploration period will expire on December 31, 2013. Obligations of the next exploration period will depend on the drilling results.