A Total-led consortium is preparing to commence oil and gas drilling program at the Han Asparuh 1-21 block in Bulgaria's Black Sea coast in early 2016.

The program, which is part of a five-year deal signed with the Bulgarian Government, is expected to help reduce the country’s reliance on Russian gas imports.

Total Bulgaria division general manager Xavier Faugeras was quoted by Reuters as saying: "We are currently under preparation and we expect to begin in early 2016.

"It depends on the availability of our contractors when exactly we will start, but everything is going according to the plan."

The drilling was initially planned to begin during the mid-2015; however, it was deferred due to drop in oil prices.

Total has 40% interest in the block, while OMV and Repsol each own 30%. The block is estimated to produce up to 84 billion cubic meters of gas.

The government expects to finalize bidders in late September for drilling off Black Sea coast.