BP makes major gas discovery in Azerbaijan

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LONDON, Nov 14 (Reuters) Oil giant BP Plc announced on Wednesday a major gas-condensate discovery in Azerbaijan's Shah Deniz field in the Caspian Sea, which field partner StatoilHydro said could double the field's output.

''Test flows were at the maximum capacity of the on-board equipment of 35 million standard cubic feet a day,'' BP said in a statement. ''Results confirm sufficient gas at Shah Deniz for a second stage of development''.

The SDX-04 well, some 70 kilometres south east of Baku, was drilled to a Caspian-record depth of more than 7,300 metres in the south western part of Shah Deniz.

BP said the discovery represents a potentially significant find, adding that there will be appraisal to fully delineate the new structure in the next few years.

''We are very pleased that the well has proven that there are reserves that have the potential of more than doubling the output from the field,'' StatoilHydro's head of international exploration and production, Peter Mellbye, said in a statement.

BP is operator of the Shah Deniz field with a 25.5 percent stake. Other shareholders include Norway's StatoilHydro with 25.5 percent, State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic (SOCAR), LUKOIL and Total each with 10 percent.

''We believe that gas from Stage 2 development can contribute to cover the domestic demand for gas in Azerbaijan, as well as supplying gas not only to the regional markets Georgia and Turkey, but also to the European Union,'' Mellbye said.

''We are ready to work with Azerbaijan and our partners to commercialise the gas from Stage 2,'' it said.

Shares in BP were up 2.2 percent at 595.7 pence at 1149 GMT.

Shares in StatoilHydro were up 1.8 percent to 172 crowns, with analysts saying the find was important for future growth of the oil companies.

''This is an important find...but it is at least one or two years ahead in time,'' said oil analyst Eric Nasby at Handelsbanken Capital Markets in Oslo. ''But is it positive in the sense that it secures future growth.'' REUTERS BJR ND1808

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