FOR MOST PART of last week, one of the companies prospecting oil and gas off the shores of Liberia took a couple of stakeholders in high seas to its exploration site. Chevron, of the world's popular and biggest oil companies, ferried Government officials, civil society and the media 15 nautical miles away to update in a graphic way how its exploration exercises have been faring and, perhaps, to showcase its capacity and competence. By the tour of its huge marine architecture, as facilitated by the company, Liberians' hopes about acquiring an oil economy are once again revived and stand expectant.
FROM CURSORY VIEW of the site, a few hours' visitors would appreciate the enormous task Chevron has opted to undertake. And it is not difficult to behold the enormous capacity of the Company and its engineers. Truly, Chevron, as it is said in Liberian parlance, "is no small potato" in the oil business, particularly when it comes to its expertise to explore and prospect. The rig is gigantic so is the vessel that homes its equipment, machinery and manpower. It is a self-contained city of its own. Looking at such a grandiose architecture and the show of power and expertise, Chevron has indicated clearly to many visits that it is prepared for serious business and assures Liberians that the day is near when Liberia would take its seat at OPEC, the world's community of oil leading producing countries.
WHAT STRUCK PEOPLE, however, particularly inquisitive and anxious media personnel onboard the tour of the Chevron rig was--and is--that the seemingly highly acknowledgeable managers and engineers could not say they have begun smelling a drop of oil. And perhaps astonishingly, they could not say when? Throughout the tour, the Chevron managers splendidly described the functions and duties of both staff and equipment, accentuating the capacity of the company and every other thing on the marine carrier.
THE DRILLING, ACCORDING to the Chevron officials, started 30 days of the journalists' visit to the rig and would complete within the next 28 days. And according to them, it will take six months after the drilling to know whether there is oil. Critical cross examinations by anxious journalists wanting to break the good news failed to pay off. Will there be good news? Do we expect commercial quality? When? As any drop ever being noticed down the 10,000 feet already gone? Unfortunately, the common answer was: No. No. and No. And the excuse is that Chevron is in competition and could not at this stage disclose exact position.
WHILE WE HAVE no reason to doubt the propositions of Chevron over its prospection exercises, we can however say the meanness with which Chevron dished out information last week has dampened the anxiety of visitors of the rig, and perhaps the entire public who read and heard reports of the media. And this is likely to enrich rumors or the elementary thinking among some Liberians that the companies doing oil exploration have since been siphoning the natural resource out of the country secretly. This suspicion or elementary thinking is even more promoted by similar tight-lip that the Africa Petroleum Limited has accorded public inquiry since it announced it had discovered oil at commercial quantity. Several months since Africa Petroleum Limited made that declaration, the public been waiting almost helplessly to hear and see when and how the first drops of the commercial oil found will turn into the intended dividends; appearing on the world market.
INDEED, THE ENTIRE wild anxieties and rumors surrounding the oil exploration process in Liberia is particularly explained by the huge sums of offshore monies expended by the explorers both in terms of what they may be paying in taxes and in terms of their own activities.
Chevron alone has announced infusing up to US$150m into the sector and not much is known about its competitors. With these kinds of investments made, the ordinary people aren't only anxious to see results but are also asking when those results will come by.
ELATED HOWEVER ABOUT announcement that Chevron has starting actual drilling and had already gone 10,000 feet already and is left to possibly go up 37,000 feet, Liberians are all hopeful that the much-needed pronouncement will be made very soon--possibly within the next 28 days it says left to make a determination. With the chief overseer of the Liberian oil sector, NOCAL, paving the way through meaningful reforms to make oil and gas a linchpin in the fight against poverty and conflict in Liberia, we all look forward to Providence's divine intervention through Chevron's acumen as a chief oil czar.