Russia's oil giant Rosneft is beginning work on the shelf of the former Georgian republic of Abkhazia, the Kommersant business daily reported on Wednesday, quoting Abkhazia's President Sergei Bagapsh.
"Currently, work is under way to allocate territories for the operation and delivery equipment. So far, work is planned between Gudauta and Novy Afon. They are now hiring vessels in the places where they will work," Bagapsh said in an interview with Kommersant.
According to Bagapsh, seismic studies during the Soviet period showed that oil was largely concentrated in the Gudauta depression, between the Abkhaz capital of Sukhumi and Gagry resort.
Bagapsh said that 22 oil wells had been drilled off Abkhazia during the Soviet period, which were later disused. The Abkhaz authorities decided to open one of the wells during the war with Georgia and a blockade of the republic, the paper said.
"We were in a difficult situation, we were not allowed to import petrol, but we needed it. I opened one (of the wells), and oil flew out of it under pressure, but it was accompanied by such a large amount of gas that we had to put it on hold again. At that time we were not yet ready as we lacked specialists and equipment," Bagapsh said, adding that the oil was of premium quality.
Bagapsh said that he shared environmentalists' concerns but added that all Black Sea littoral states were exploring the shelf
"Georgia is exploring the shelf not far from us, practically at the border. Western companies also are working there. Turkey is drilling 130 wells ... Bulgarians, Rumanians and Ukrainians are also looking for oil on the Black Sea shelf. Russia will also be working near Anapa and Gelendzhik," Bagapsh said.