Much promise, little joy in Albania's long search for oil

Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:55am EDT
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* Albania bidding to fulfil century-old oil hopes

* Sector dominated by small players

* Shell-partnered drilling well could hit big

* Concerns over transparency, corruption

By Matt Robinson and Benet Koleka

BERAT, Albania, June 20 (Reuters) - In 35 years drilling for oil around the world, Leo Aubin says he's made a lot of money for a lot of people. Now the stout, moustachioed Canadian finds himself in Albania, boring a hole 6,000 metres deep for the black gold that the impoverished Balkan country has spent 100 years hunting.

"We're very confident we're going to find what we're looking for," Aubin said at his drill rig, Shpirag II, in south-central Albania.

Petromanas, the small Canadian firm Aubin works for, has picked up where a string of oil majors left off in the early 1990s, when the likes of Shell, Chevron and Occidental rushed to Albania as its borders flew open with the collapse of Communism.

They had hoped to emulate the discovery almost a century ago by Anglo-Persian Oil Company, forerunner to BP, of one of Europe's biggest onshore oilfields, Patos-Marinza.   Continued...