OPINION: Gambia runs rule over latest PSC hopefuls
Gambia runs rule over latest PSC hopefuls
Ministry hoping to make awards this year after 11 of 22 bidders shortlisted.
Barry Morgan Paris
Gambia aims to select successful suitors bidding for acreage in the country’s latest licensing round by the middle of this year, possibly awarding production sharing contracts before autumn. Petroleum & Energy Minister Fafa Sanyang told Upstream this week that the ministry website would be updated shortly to allow the newly shortlisted bidders to submit requests for proposals as the licensing process enters its second phase. Sanyang added that President Adama Barrow's government would then decide on the successful bidders "by about mid-year", with the possibility of awarding PSCs a few months later. Ministry officials had earlier extended the deadline for companies to submit requests for information on specified blocks from 10 January to 18 February, implying that requests for proposals would suffer proportionate delay. Of the 22 companies expressing formal interest, 11 have been shortlisted including France's Total, Italy's Eni and two affiliates of China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) — CNOOC International and CNOOC UK. Also in the mix are Australian juniors Far Ltd and Talon Petroleum, UK-based Impact Oil & Gas, Sweden’s Svenska Petroleum and a joint venture of UK-based Tullow Oil and Australia's Woodside Energy. All shortlisted companies will make proposals on key technical and commercial terms in line with Gambia's draft model contract — the Model Petroleum, Exploration & Production Licence of 2014, which was reviewed and reformatted last August. The model contract will form the basis of all licences to be granted under the Petroleum Exploration, Development & Production Act, said the ministry. Excluded from the exercise are blocks A2 and A5, where operator Far aims to drill the Samo-1 well later this year, having recently farmed out a 40% stake to Malaysia’s Petronas, which will take the reins in the event of oil or gas development. Based on Gambia's official map, offered acreage includes two onshore licences including both upper and lower River Gambia tracts, the two shallow water licences A3 and A6, as well as deep-water licences A1 and A4, which are currently claimed by Oslo-listed African Petroleum (APCL). Sanyang declined to comment on the status of blocks A1 and A4, which are subject to arbitration proceedings at the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes. A government statement issued this week specifies that all 22 companies had expressed interest in just four blocks, suggesting that either the two onshore licences had been dropped or that A1 and A4 have been withdrawn to avoid controversy. The cases lodged by APCL against the Gambian government in pursuit of its claim are understood to have prompted Gambia’s Justice Ministry to seek postponement of the licensing exercise as the blocks featured prominently in suitor interest. Rather than commit funds to a protracted legal battle in an international tribunal, Upstream understands that several ministerial figures would prefer an amicable settlement. It is understood some officials hope APCL may drop the case in exchange for a compromise, such as retaining equity alongside companies already active, including majors or state players keen to secure a position or expand their footprint in the Mauritania-Senegambia-Guinea-Bissau-Conakry (MSGBC) basin. It is unclear how this licensing process affects an Area of Mutual Interest agreement announced last year by Far and CNOOC, which covered selected offshore acreage in the MSGBC basin, including all of Gambia's shallows but excluding blocks A1 and A4. http://www.upstreamonline.com/hardcopy/1477425/gambia-runs-rule-over-latest-psc-hopefuls