Sierra Leone Telegraph: 30 August 2021:
Hot on the heels of oil majors either exiting or cutting back their activities in West Africa, comes news of other players moving to fill the gap – in the coastal countries of Sierra Leone, The Gambia and Ghana, for instance.
In other West African coastal countries – Senegal, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Liberia, and Togo – there are also hopes of finding oil fields containing economically viable quantities of oil and gas.
Nowhere are the activities of West African coastal countries more manifest than in the registrations for Africa Oil Week 2021 in November. The African continent’s premier oil and gas conference has moved temporarily to Dubai as a COVID-19 safety precaution but has committed to return “home” to Cape Town, South Africa from 2022.
Committed participants in AOW 2021 from West African coastal countries thus far include:
- Sierra Leone’s Minister of Energy, Alhaji Kanja Sesay, Minister of Environment Prof. Dr Foday M. Jaward, Minister of Mineral Resources Timothy Kabba, Minister of State in the Office of the Vice President, Madam Frances Alghali, and Director General of the Petroleum Directorate, Foday Mansaray;
- The Gambia’s Minister of Energy and Petroleum, Fafa Sanyang, Commissioner for Petroleum in the Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, Jerreh Barrow and the Chief Executive Officer of Gambia National Petroleum Company, Yaya Barrow; and
- Ghana’s Minister of Energy, Matthew Opoku Prempeh.
AOW’s Vice President of Energy and Director of Government Relations, Paul Sinclair, said: “AOW in Dubai is going to be a blockbuster. With, the Minister of Energy for the United Arab Emirates, Suhail Mohamed Al Mazrouei, confirming he will set out his commitments to West Africa and beyond, we can only see more success coming to the region, as a result of AOW 2021 in Dubai.”
In Sierra Leone, one company eyeing the prospects is Cluff Energy Africa. Since Algy Cluff created Cluff Oil in the ’70s, Cluff Energy Africa has operated sustainable and efficient natural resources projects in Tanzania, Ghana, South Africa, Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, and Ivory Coast.
Cluff’s new venture, Cluff Energy Africa, established two years ago, has already provisionally been awarded licenses covering 16,000km² in Sierra Leone with plans to expand across East and West Africa. He describes exits and divestments by the majors as an enormous opportunity to fill the gap.
Despite the volatility accompanying Covid-19, Cluff is confident that the rebound will see oil prices settle at a high watermark and, with the giants of the industry pulling out, a space has been left for smaller and nimbler companies to move in.
“We’re definitely seeing a fragmentation of the oil and gas market,” he explains. As well as smaller players, Russia and China are also looking to consolidate their position in the African commodities market.
He says these changes are part of an inevitable transition, and that alternative energy sources will be the answer for global energy production to meet the Paris Climate Accord targets.
Nonetheless “smaller countries need to survive in the interim,” he says, especially as national budgets to develop alternative energy on a large scale are limited.
For Africa, with an electrification rate of only 43 per cent compared to a global average of 87 per cent, the challenge of the energy transition comes as countries grapple with how to deliver energy on a scale to drive growth and development.
High hopes for Gambia
In The Gambia, Australian company FAR and joint venture partner Petronas have contracted a deep-water drillship for an oil exploration well later this year.
The drillship Stena IceMAX will spud the Bambo-1 exploration well in October and November. If successful, a discovery could result in a standalone development which would be The Gambia’s first oil production The well is expected to take 30 days to drill to a planned total depth of 3 266 metres in water depths of 993 metres, 500 metres south of the Senegal-Gambia border.
“We are pleased to be recommencing exploration drilling at FAR with this high impact well in The Gambia and with the same drill team that drilled efficiently and safely for the Samo-1 well in 2018,” FAR Managing Director Cath Norman says.
“The well will be the first well to be drilled in the Mauritania, Senegal, The Gambia, Guinea-Bissau and Guinea-Conakry (MSGBC) basin since the collapse of the market in the wake of the oil price crash and the Covid-19 pandemic.
“A discovery of oil offshore Gambia would be extremely significant for FAR shareholders and the people of Gambia and help move Gambia out of ‘energy poverty’ and to transition from burning heavy fuel oil for power generation.”
Upstream boost for Ghana
The upstream oil and gas business in Ghana recently received a boost when Eni announced that it has made a significant oil find offshore Ghana, close to its existing Sankofa hub, which would allow it to fast-track production. The Eban-1X well is the second well drilled in CTP Block 4, following the Akoma discovery. Preliminary estimates place the potential of the Eban-Akoma complex between 500 and 700 Mboe in place.
Due to its proximity to existing infrastructure, the new discovery can be fast-tracked to production with a subsea tie-in to the John Agyekum Kufuor FPSO, with the aim to extend its production plateau and increase production.
Mr Africanus, I totally agree with you that we have enough natural, and human resources to develop our country ourselves, and no need for oil exploration, but with one caveat. If we don’t take advantage of our God given natural resources, and develop our own Country, someone else will use Sierra Leone’s natural, and human resources to develop their own country. Check out the thousands of industrious Sierra Leoneans, that are washed up in different parts of the world as there adopted homes countries make use of them to develop their own countries.And Sierra Leoneans are one of the most sought after work ethics peoples in any economic activity around the world.No one bad mouth Sierra Leoneans abroad. But ironically not there country of birth. There were rumours that gain currency, after the end of Lebanese civil war between 1975 to 1990, daimonds from Tongo Fields, in Kono District, Sierra-leone, were used as one of the major source of income used by Lebanese nationals to rebuild their devastated war torn country.
Not legitimate diamonds deals, but smuggled diamonds. At the middle of Charles Taylor NPLF war in Liberia, Liberia was exporting more diamonds than geological survey suggests Liberia can produce and export for the Belgian,India and Israeli markets. You might have been for given to think that part of Sierra Leone, was part of Greater Liberia. And that has always been the thinking of some of Liberia’s political elites. Indeed one of the charges for which Charles Taylor was accused of during his infamous war crimes tribunal at the special Court for Sierra Leone, he was receiving jars of diamonds from the Sam Bockarie alias “Mosquito “one of the RUF leader, for exchange of the supply of arms and ammunition to kill, rape and maimed their fellow countrymen and women. Only Sierra Leoneans that have such a ruthless mindset . To harvest your country’s minerals to kill your people not develop your country. Today fishing trawlers from the Asian Pacific region, the Europeans Union from the North Atlantic, are stealing our fish from our coastal waters, because our countrys coastal defences are weak. And the tiny tug boats donated to Sierra Leone by the Republic of South Korea is no match to the big fishing trawlers that are being used to steal our fish.
Which leaves our fishing communities getting very little harvest of fish, any time they venture out to our coastal waters. Which brings me to the vexed question of the unregulated, and out of control timber trade for which Bio is their patron saint. Just like corruption we were expecting Bio and his government to fight this scourge in our society, but Iam afraid the tale of his record on that front has resulted in a miserable failure all round. So I suspect this oil wells some where out in the middle of the Atlantic coastline which is part and parcel of our territorial waters, will end up in the hands of foreigners that give two monkey’s about Sierra Leone development, mirroring the attitude of our corrupt and incompetent politicians. They will find their efforts to steal our oil like pushing an open door, no need to put in any efforts, our corrupt leaders that only think about themselves not our country have made it easier for them .
We have enough resources to have a viable nation that is strong economically. We do not need oil exploration.
No one can deny the fact oil is the major contributor to the global economy. From every day house hold activities, to mode of transport from one part of the country to the other part. And by extension the rest of the world. The discovery of oil in any country can be seen as a mixture of blessing and something to celebrate about. As former Ghanaian president J. A. Kufuor quoted of saying that about the discovery of oil in the western region of Gahana:”Oil is money and we need money to do the schools, roads, the hospital, “. Since Sierra leone is in the verge of joining this club of oil producing nations, we Sierra Leoneans can only cross our fingers and hope for the best. Put to good use, our future economic development prospect is bright. I don’t want to sound like a kill joy, but if our history is anything to go by, we’ve have seen what being blessed with natural resources have brought us as nation . The RUF war and cancer of corruption.
Instead of making the average family live comfortably, without worrying about the where their children are meal will come from the next day, it has a actually has the opposite effects. It has certainly exacerbated poverty and inequality in our country. The gap between the Haves and Have not have grown wider like the rive Rokel or the great Scarcise river. The Bauxite and other minerals resources like Iron ore in Marampa, and diamonds in Kono district that were discovered in the 1930s Sierra Leone, have made little difference in the life of the average of Sierra Leonean . All this minerals our country boast of having, and known for throughout the world , have only created a small clique of Fat cat politicians, that is only in politics to help fatten their bank balances, instead of using it for the good of all. As the people in the Niger delta is all too aware, oil spill can have a devastating effects to the environment.
And given the costal communities that rely on fishing for survival especially in Shebro Islands, Tawai, Bunce, and Tasso Islands perhaps one of the most beauty spots in Sierra Leone,if the oil drilling is not regulated, then we may in the long run lose those paradise Islands due to oil spills. I think before any decision is taken to give the go ahead for oil drilling, people in those fishing communities most have a seat on that table, where the government and this would be prospectors for oil are holding their negotiations. And their voices and concerns should be respected. Government doesn’t feed them, but the waters of this coastal communities does.
It all looks and sounds marvellous. To what end, though? Whatever happened to the growing consciousness worldwide of a looming catastrophic climate change? Is our entire West African coast now destined to become a vast factory of environmental pollution? Indeed is the calamitously polluted Nigerian Delta region not warning enough for other West African nations to proceed with caution, and perhaps rely instead on their intuition and imagination to create alternative, environmentally more friendly sources of wealth?
And there is the unavoidable and vexed issue of knowing who it is that actually stands to benefit from these much hyped new fossil fuel finds. To speak of the country I know best, what have so many decades of industrial-scale extraction of other natural resources – iron ore, diamonds, gold, rutile – yielded, enabling ordinary Sierra Leoneans to breathe a sigh of relief and support themselves and their families without having to struggle to do so day after day? And will the discovery and extraction of oil therefore make any meaningful difference to their lives? Indeed, are their Nigerian neighbours today any richer, happier and more fulfilled after decades of large scale production and exportatin of this natural resource in their country?
The prospect of other West African nations including Sierra Leone joining the region’s major oil producers is certainly music to the ears of the powers that be. I am speaking here in particular of our own Energy, Environment and Mines Ministers and of the corruption-ridden Bio administration more generally. As for the rest of us, there is really no cause for celebration. A whole history of our starving to death in the midst of resources aplenty is there to justify our scepticism.