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Historical Rundown of Oil Exploration in Yemen

The beginning of the search and exploration for oil in Yemen goes back to the 1930’s of the twentieth century. In particular it was in 1938 when Iraq Petrol Company carried out seismic in some Yemeni areas. Then internal seismic operations were carried out by foreign companies in the 1950s and 60s. This continued in the 70s and the outset of the 1980s. All of that ensued to the following:


  • In the summer of 1984, Hunt Oil Company announced the first   commercial discovery of oil in Yemen.  Oil was found in Block 18, Ma’reb/Al-Jawaf.  Following that, development of the block was done through building surface plants and constructing a pipeline to the Red Sea.
  • In 1986, the production and export of the first oil shipment was executed from block 18 under the guidance and reign of President Ali Abdullah Saleh, the maker of Yemen’s new renaissance and oil revolution.
  • In 1987, it was announced that oil was discovered in three fields of Shabwah governorate by a (former) Russian company, Techno-Export. These were West Iyad, East Iyad and Amel fields (block 4). Developing of the block was done through building its plants and construction of pipelines to Balhaf Port on the Arab Sea.
  • In 1991, significant oil discoveries were made on Sona field Masilah block (, block 14,) by Canadian Occidental Petroleum (now Canadian Nexen Petroleum). Such discoveries were followed by more findings. Then, the block was developed by building its plants and construction of the oil pipeline to Al-Thabah area, Hadhramout governorate, on the Arab Sea.
  • In September 1996, oil was discovered in Halayouh field Janah block 5. (It was discovered by a consortium of companies operating in the block). Then plants were built and the produced oil was carried by the pipeline of Hunt Yemen Company, the (former) operator of block 18, Ma’reb /Al-Jawaf. Hunt pipeline delivered oil the port on the Red Sea.
  • In 1998, Total Yemen (Total Vienna Alf) made a number of oil discoveries in the following fields: Khareer, Atouf, and Wadi Taryah, (East Shabwah block 10). Production was linked with Al-Masilah block 14.
  • On December 18 1999, DNO, a Norwegian company and operator of Hawreeh block 32, announced the discovery of oil. It started production and exporting oil through Al-Masilah pipeline in November 2001.
  • In December 2001, production began in block 53.
  • In April 2004, Block S1 started producing oil.
  • November 2005 was the outset for oil production from block 51.
  • In July 2005, oil production initiated from Block 43.
  • December 2005 was the beginning of producing oil from Malik block 9.


In addition, oil discovery in block S1 was announced to have been done and production would possibly start in the second half of 2006.

This is Yemen with very humble potentials to serve the people and the homeland.


Oil Blocks in Yemen

Following the discovery of commercial amounts of oil in the eastern and mid areas of Yemen, the number of international oil companies working in oil exploration and production increased rapidly. Yemen has very large concession areas distributed between its middle and eastern parts. In addition, offshore areas are of a big volume located in Aden Gulf, the Red Sea and Soqatra Island.

On close scrutiny of the Yemeni oil map, it is possible to infer the following:

  • The total number of oil blocks amount to 87.
  • There are 13 production blocks operated by 11 oil companies.
  • 26 blocks are at the exploratory phases operated by 16 oil companies.
  • There are 7 blocks pending approval.
  • There are 28 open blocks.
  • There are 14 blocks waiting promotion at the time being.

In fact, oil is the main source of energy in the Republic of Yemen. Because of its fundamental significance, the Yemeni government considers oil as the basic element for building its national economy. Oil is used in financing the construction of socio-economic and development projects which constitute the infrastructure of the national economy. It is also the source of extracting useful derivatives and products exploited in different basic industries.

More over, the oil reserves of the Republic of Yemen estimate at 9,718 billion barrels. It is worth noting that fresh information on sedimentary basins in Yemen indicates that there are many promising concession areas located at 12 sedimentary basins. At the time being, Yemeni oil production is only from 2 sedimentary basins out of the above-mentioned 12. Producing oil only from two basins gives us more inspiring and optimistic indicators. Other indicators are the 87 blocks, out of which only 12 produce oil. Yet, the size of a block differs from one to another. The average size of a block is 4 thousand square kilometers unlike safer block whose area is 8 thousand square kilometer, an area close to that of Lebanon or Palestine. This indicates that Safer Company, the new operator of the block, is still at its beginnings as it is working in a very small part of the block.

In addition, there is an orientation towards exploiting offshore blocks located at the Arab Sea, Aden Gulf, and the Red Sea. Historically speaking, an oil company carried out drilling operations between Al-Mukalla and Sayhout. The result was the discovery of 3 thousand barrels in one of the wells but because of political reasons, the well was closed down. That was a very simple indicator, so now there is an Australian oil company working on block 15. It would start exploration in January 2007. Promoting the offshore blocks would start at the beginning of 2007.

Another crucial indicator of Yemen’s oil potentials is that in the 14 blocks under promotion there are more than 60 oil companies applying and proposing to operate them. The coming of such companies to Yemen is a very good omen to Yemen and in other words it indicates that such companies have sufficient and accurate data and indicators of the future of investment in Yemen



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