22 November 2015, News Wires – ExxonMobil is back in Liberia. Block 13 was signed up in 2013 but operations were placed on hold when the Ebola virus was detected in nearby Guinea and spread throughout the region — with Sierra Leone and Liberia the hardest hit.
The reopening of its office in Monrovia is a signal it is now safe to return to one of the continent’s most prospective untapped oil frontiers — a huge swath of the West Africa Margin revitalised when Tullow Oil and Kosmos Energy declared intent to develop Ghana’s Tano basin discoveries in 2007.
Country manager in Monrovia Steve Buck indicated a readiness to drill before the end of 2016. This is music to the ears of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, who now has every incentive to push through the reforming draft Petroleum Code, long delayed in a legislature preoccupied with factional infighting.
Much rides on ExxonMobil’s debut well, Mesurado-1, which the supermajor and partner Canadian Overseas Petroleum hope will confirm commercial hydrocarbons.
Chevron is also poised to resume operations.
Perhaps the weakest link is the National Oil Company of Liberia (Nocal), where yet another chief executive, Randolph McClain, has been retired by Sirleaf. This time, his operations chief Althea Sherman has been put in charge to restructure the bankrupt player.
Liberia was declared Ebola-free in May but the move proved premature. A new declaration came in September, followed this month by Sierra Leone, leaving just Guinea struggling with one last patient — a little girl called Nubia Soumah.
In terms of regional momentum, neighbouring Ivory Coast already aims to double Ghana’s current oil output of some 105,000 barrels per day before the end of the decade.
Explorers are now champing at the bit to expand deep-water drilling to the west around the the Windward Coast towards Sierra Leone, where Chevron plans to drill in blocks BFI8A and FL8B, reviving that dormant play.
So with luck, Nubia’s traumatised generation may yet benefit from future oil and gas revenues.