History of Oil and Gas Exploration in Maldives

The history of oil and gas exploration in the Maldives dates back to the 1960s when Maldives archipelago and its sedimentary basin known as the Maldives Basin located in the political territory of the Maldives, became a new study area receiving more attention, not only from coral reef specialists but also from carbonate sedimentologists and stratigraphers interested in large-scale processes controlling the evolution of carbonate sedimentary systems.

The first oil and gas exploration attempt in the Maldives was collaboration between the French oil major, Elf Aquitaine and the Government of Maldives. This exploration endeavour was embarked as a 10-year project, which commenced in 1968 and terminated in 1978. Under this project, an exploration well namely NMA-1 was drilled in 1976, and subsequently two ODP sites No: 715 and No: 716 was also drilled. However, it was found that the quantity available from the drilled site was insignificant and therefore uneconomical for production.

Fifteen years later, Royal Dutch Shell initiated the second attempt of oil and gas exploration in the Maldives. Based on two-dimensional seismic surveys conducted by Shell surveyors, the company decided to drill an exploration well in the inner sea of the Ari Atoll. The exploration well named ARI-1 was drilled in 1991. However, the result was not much of an economic success as offshore production costs was not commensurate to the prevailing prices in the contemporary oil market at that time.

The fact that two leading oil exploration companies in the world had invested in exploration drilling in the Maldives, keeps up the glimmer of hope for commercial success of oil and gas exploration in the Maldives. Today, with the remarkable improvement of technology in the area of oil and exploration such as three or four dimensional seismic survey systems etc., the Maldives National Oil Company is hopeful that oil or gas can be discovered in Maldives.