Repsol to search for offshore oil in Liberia

Jul 09, 2004 02:00 AM

Liberia's transitional government has given Spanish oil giant Repsol a licence to explore for offshore oil near the country's western border with Sierra Leone, officials said. This is the first major exploration contract ever awarded in the West African country, which is emerging from 14 years of civil war.
"Repsol will begin operations within three months," Musa Dean, the head of the National Oil Company of Liberia told. "It is our expectation that after the four-year period, the first barrel of oil will be produced in Liberia."

Repsol already has West African operations in Sierra Leone, where the search for oil is still under way, and Equatorial Guinea, which is rapidly becoming one of Africa's largest producers.
Miguel Angel Gil, a vice-president of the Spanish company, said he expected the initial four-year exploration programme in Liberia to cost $ 10 mm to $ 15 mm.

Before the civil war began in 1989, Liberia relied on iron-ore, rubber, timber and diamonds exports, but now only the rubber industry is active. Iron ore exports halted in the early 1990s because of the fighting. And last month the UN Security Council refused to lift sanctions on diamond and timber exports -- imposed on the country between 2001 and 2003 to deprive former president Charles Taylor of funds to buy arms.
The Council said peace in the country was still too fragile and the government was not yet in a position to properly control diamond mining and logging activities in the interior.

Oil could provide an economic boost for Liberia as it heads back to democracy, with elections planned for October 2005. Exploration studies conducted in Cote d'Ivoire in the late 1990s concluded there was a strong possibility of oil being found in nearby Liberian waters, officials at the Ministry of Land, Mines and Energy told.
"The shores of Maryland County were particularly cited in the Ivorian study that was submitted to former president Charles Taylor, but no action was taken to attract companies to do exploration," one official explained.
Repsol's exploration work will focus on the western border with Sierra Leone at the opposite end of the country.

Source: UN Integrated Regional Information Networks
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