BBC News – Somalia invites energy companies to explore for oil

The price of oil may have fallen off a cliff recently, but that has not deterred energy giants like Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP and Chevron from reactivating plans to drill in Somalia.

The Horn of Africa country could be the next focus for the energy industry, as the government claims the nation will be producing oil within six years.

London-based Soma Oil and Gas, which is backed by Russian billionaire Alexander Djaparidze, has completed an onshore and offshore seismic survey and it is encouraged by the results. Details are expected to be published by the end of the year.

Security remains a concern for foreign investors, but Somalia says with the help of troops from the African Union, it is making progress against the Islamist insurgents al-Shabab.

Nevertheless attacks continue in the region, with ones in the capital, Mogadishu, the south-central town of Baidoa and north-eastern Kenya, near the Somali border, in the last week alone.

There are frequent attacks in Somalia by al-Shabab militants

Soma Oil and Gas chief executive Bob Sheppard, told the BBC the company’s seismic survey covered thousands of kilometres without any security worries.

“We’re able to do that with zero security incidents. What we’ve been able to demonstrate is that you can conduct offshore operations safely and securely,” he said.

A seismic survey involves firing an audio signal underground and analysing the sound waves that bounce back, which can indicate if there are deposits of oil or gas.

Territorial dispute

The government in Mogadishu will reward Soma for carrying out the seismic survey with licences to explore for oil.

Soma Oil and Gas chief executive Bob Sheppard is confident Somalia has good reserves

“The government have recognised they need to stimulate exploration. They need to stimulate the creation of a hydrocarbon regime because they are in a prospective area,” says Mr Sheppard.

He notes that the region’s geology looks positive. “The analogous area would be the north-west coast of Madagascar, which has oil, because back in Triassic time (205 to 248 million years ago) they were joined. So we think the same hydrocarbon environment may exist,” he said.

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There is a tremendous improvement in security in Somalia at the moment”

Abdulkadir Abiikar Hussein

Director of oil and gas exploration

“We’re hopeful about oil.”

Another thing that could disrupt development of Somalia’s oil and gas is a territorial dispute with Kenya over the offshore border between the two nations.

Talks between Nairobi and Mogadishu have failed to resolve the dispute and tensions increased after Kenya issued exploration licences to drill in the region.

Somalia has filed a case with the UN’s International Court of Arbitration.

Petroleum and Mineral Resources Minister Daud Mohamed Omar is confident Somalia will win its case.

“We do not believe that it is a disputed area. We believe it’s the property of the Somali nation,” he said.

via BBC News – Somalia invites energy companies to explore for oil.