US Envoy Says Oil Availability Overstated

WASHINGTON (AP)–Richard Morningstar–the Clinton administration’s special adviser on Caspian Basin Energy Diplomacy said last Thursday that despite a growing number of dry wells drilled in the Caspian–he believed there was sufficient oil to make it a productive region.

He said at a briefing he expected that in the next 12 months companies and governmen’s involved in the pipeline negotiations "will reach some kind of agreement on guidelines that will set out a clear road map" for building the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline.

Asked about 25 dry holes that have been drilled in the south Caspian in recent months–Morningstar said the oil companies did not seem concerned because they had similar experiences when North Sea fields off Scotland were being developed.

"Some of the original predictions the Caspian being a new Middle East may have been overstated but the companies are moving forward with exploration–not backing away–Morningstar said.

In a report last year the State Department estimated that the Caspian region’s possible reserves could reach 178 billion barrels. But several independent consulting firms now place total probable reserves in the region at about one-tenth the original US government estimate–or 17.8 billion barrels.

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