Sao Tome may decide on third oil licensing round by mid-2007

Jul 11, 2006 02:00 AM

Sao Tome and Principe, the tiny island nation off the coast of West Africa, is unlikely to decide when it will hold its third oil licensing round until early to mid-2007, a top government official said.
The impoverished country, whose government currently gets most of its revenue from agriculture and foreign companies operating phone sex lines, is on the cusp of becoming a new oil player in the increasingly important waters of West Africa's Gulf of Guinea. Sao Tome held two oil licensing rounds in 2003 and 2004, and is conducting studies on new oil acreage in the gulf that will determine the scale of a third oil licensing round, said Carlos Gomes, Chairman of the Sao Tome-Nigeria Joint Development Authority.

Gomes told on the sidelines of a Gulf of Guinea oil conference in London that the studies are likely to be finalized around mid-2007 and a firm date on the third oil licensing round will be announced thereafter.
"We don't have enough data, especially seismic data, that would allow usto know what type of oil acreage we're dealing with," Gomes told delegates at the conference.

The JDA was established in 2001 by Sao Tome and Nigeria, whose offshore waters are adjacent to Sao Tome's, to manage oil licensing rounds in the two countries' shared waters, known as the Joint Development Zone.
The zone contains 23 exploration blocks that could contain as much as 14 bn barrels of oil. The JDA has already awarded 6 blocks to a number of companies, but the licensing rounds have been plagued by long delays and accusations of corruption.

US oil major Chevron announced in May that it had found oil and gas in the zone's first block but said it was too early to say whether the discovery is commercially viable. Chevron holds a 51 % stake in Block 1, ExxonMobil owns 40 % and the rest is owned by a local company.
The US, the world's biggest oil consumer, currently gets about 15 % of its oil imports from the Gulf of Guinea but that is expected to rise to about 25 % by 2015.

Source: Dow Jones Newswires/
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