Malta’s position in the centre of the Mediterranean Sea and its proximity to producing oil and gas fields in Italy, Tunisia and Libya, emphasise the potential of Malta’s continental shelf. The Maltese Islands have a much larger continental shelf area relative to their land area and therefore the regulation of maritime activities on Malta’s continental shelf is of paramount importance.
Following the enactment of the Continental Shelf Act in 1966, oil exploration activities offshore Malta commenced in the early 1970’s and four offshore exploratory wells weredrilled by Aquitaine, Home Oil and Shell. Over the years, a total of eleven offshore exploration wells were drilled and several thousand kilometres of seismic data as well as other geophysical data were acquired. This information has increased the knowledge and understanding of the petroleum potential of Malta’s continental shelf.
Presently, Area 2 & Area 7 are licensed to Heritage Oil under a Production Sharing Contract. Blocks 1, 2 & 3 of Area 3 are licensed to Capricorn Malta Limited (a subsidiary of Cairn Energy plc) and Melita Exploration Company Limited (a subsidiary of Rockhopper Exploration plc) under an Exploration Study Agreement. Area 5 is licensed to Ratio Malta Limited (an affiliate of Ratio Oil Exploration Limited) under an Exploration Study Agreement.
In addition to oil exploration, several marine research surveys have also been carried out on Malta’s continental shelf, and these surveys have also provided important marine data.
The Continental Shelf Department regulates and authorises both oil exploration and other continental shelf activities.