A memorandum of understanding between the Armenian Ministry of Energy and Natural Resources and the Isle of Man-registered International Minerals & Mines Ltd. is paving the way for the exploration of Armenia's shale reserves. Should large-scale commercial extraction proceed, Armenia's energy find could grant the landlocked Caucasus nation a measure of energy independence and, with it, newfound geopolitical freedom.
The Aug. 3 deal comes on the heels of another agreement between the Energy Ministry and the U.S. State Department in June to cooperate in energy exploration, commercialization and investment. This agreement plans "cooperative assessment and technical studies of Armenia's energy resources, including any potential shale gas resources." According to the Armenian energy ministry, the August agreement is the result of an international shale gas conference sponsored by the U.S. government, which has offered exploration grants to Armenia and other countries.
Previous assessments suggest Armenia's hydrocarbon reserves are small. The U.S. Geological Survey, which is identified in the June memorandum as a technical partner in the joint effort, identified 44 million tons of in-place shale oil reserves in the Aramus region based on a 1994 study (.pdf). The Armenian government, however, raised the figure in a 2005 report (.pdf), listing 17 million to 18 million tons of shale oil reserves in Ijevan, Shamut and Jermanis and 128 million tons in Dilijan.