Russia’s Gazprom, one of the largest gas and oil companies in the world, has agreed to start work on offshore oil exploration in the Mannar Basin, the Petroleum Ministry said yesterday.
The company also agreed to send a team of technical experts for the preliminary work in this regard during the next three weeks.
Speaking to the Daily Mirror over the phone from Moscow, Petroleum Minister Susil Premajayantha said he held talks with Gazprom Vice Chairman Valery Gulev during his four-day visit. He was accompanied by Petroleum Research Development Secretariat Secretary Saliya
The minister said the technical experts would remain in Sri Lanka for some time to gather and analyse geological data related to oil exploration here.
“Once they finish analysing the geological data, they will decide on the next step,” he said.
The company has also agreed to grant scholarships to Sri Lankan students to pursue their graduate studies in Chemical Engineering and Geology.
“These are two academic disciplines, in which we need experts.Annually, Gazprom will provide scholarships to five students. I hope to train graduates recruited to the Ceylon Petroleum Corporation (CPC) for this purpose. Even Gazprom agreed to recruit people qualified in such academic disciplines,” he said.
According to the minister, Gazprom, which owns a hotel chain, has decided to invest US$30 million in the tourism sector in the country.
“We are going to improve air travel between the two countries. We can easily increase tourist arrivals from Russia to Sri Lanka,” he said. In February this year, President Mahinda Rajapaksa, during his visit to Russia, spoke with Gazprom officials in Moscow to discuss a possible Russian role in exploring the offshore potential in Sri Lanka.
Alexei Miller, the chief executive at Gazprom also joined in the talks with President Rajapaksa to discuss cooperation in the Sri Lankan petroleum sector. Later, Gazprom sent a separate delegation to Sri Lanka to negotiate the matter further. (Kelum Bandara)