Heritage (Monrovia)

Liberia: NOCAL Faces Public Investigation

Several Liberians have taken the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) to task over what they called the lessening of public expectation by the Liberia's oil company regarding the management of the country's oil and gas sector. According to the Liberians, NOCAL must honestly provide the Liberian people with convincing and well guided information on progress made at every level of the oil operation in the country.

The Liberians, most of whom include youth, say the provision of genuine information concerning the oil operation would help dispel negative perception that the oil company is operating for the elite instead of the Liberian people for which it was established. The Liberians made these assertions when they spoke in an exclusive interview with the Heritage on Monday, January 14, 2013.

Their comments came in the wake of public concern over the apparent disagreement between the Australian oil giant, the African Petroleum (AP) and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) as it relates to the latest progress in the drilling program of AP.

It could be recalled that recently, the AP announced that it had commenced drilling into two oil wells, which are situated off the coast of Liberia. The Australian oil giant revealed that it started drilling its Bee Eater-1 well offshore Liberia. The Bee Eater-1 well, according to AP, is located 9.5 km north west of the 2012 Narina discovery which discovered high quality oil in Turonian reservoirs.

In a statement, the AP's Chief Executive, Karl Thompson, put the commercial value of the Bee Eater oil deposit at about 840 million barrels. He stated that the second well in this drilling program will be drilled after the completion of the Bee Eater-1 Well. The CEO of AP boasted that the year 2012 was a very successful year for the company with the Narina-1 discovery in Liberia and the expansion of the company's exploration portfolio in addition to five more exploration blocks in Senegal, Sierra Leone and Cote d'Ivoire.

However, following the announcement by AP, NOCAL issued a press release, welcoming the latest progress in the drilling program of AP. But NOCAL reemphasized that AP is in the process of appraising their discovery, which they announced in February (2012). Only further drilling will determine if there are commercial quantities of oil and that the announcement by AP was intended to inform the public, as required by all public companies, about the potential prospects of its ongoing appraisal program.

"Oil and gas exploration phases include exploration drilling, appraisal, development, production and decommissioning. The process from exploration to exploitation on average, takes at least 5-7 years." NOCAL explained. Said NOCAL in the press release: "The ongoing appraisal drilling by AP is aimed at evaluating the size and nature of their reservoir to determine the number of confirming or appraisal wells required, and not for production as is being reported. This appraisal drilling program will determine whether potential discovery in Block LB-09 is commercially viable (as determined by the terms of the agreement), which could eventually ensure a progression to the development phase."

NOCAL reiterated that even if the ongoing appraisal programmes determine the commercial viability discoveries, commercial production of oil in our off shore basin may yet be a decade away. But speaking further, the Liberians contended that the management of the oil and gas sector of the country must be occasioned by fairness and transparency.

Mr. Doe Wilson, a petit trader and resident of Randall Street opined: "This oil business is not for joke. We don't want what is happening in Nigeria and countries to happen here. We want the government through NOCAL to inform the Liberian people on every key stage of the oil process." Mr. Wilson, who expressed happiness over the recent pronouncement by AP concerning latest progress in its drilling program, averred that the predicted production of huge crude oil in the country would greatly accelerate the development of the country following years.

Another Liberian, Cecelia Toe, a resident of Sinkor Old Road buttressed previous interviewees. Listen to her: "We appreciate the work of NOCAL, but the oil company must go beyond public relation stunt on key issues relating to the development of the country's oil and gas sector.

The Liberian people, many of whom are impoverished, largely are eyeing the much publicized oil and gas sector of the country for renewed hope in their existence. A student of the University of Liberia (UL), Mr. Samuel Bernard, had these assertions when he was interviewed by this paper yesterday: "We are reminded of the history of oil. Like in Nigeria and other countries, political agitation is the order of the day because the people claim that they are not benefiting from their resources only a privileged few.

We don't want similar things to happen here in our country. This is why all those behind the administration of our oil and gas sector must ensure that all Liberians are well informed about their operations." However, authorities of the NOCAL had maintained that they have nothing to hide in the management of the country's much publicized oil and gas sector.

They had indicated that the operations of NOCAL are opened to the Liberian people for scrutiny. Among other things, they added that their fairness and openness is manifested in the numerous nationwide campaign-Taking NOCAL to the people.

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