Liberia: National Oil Company Vows to Find Oil in Upcoming Round for Exploration

Monrovia — As Liberia poised to conduct its next bid round in April this year, the Liberia Regulatory Authority (LPRA) and the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) has expressed optimism over the discovery of oil this time around.

At a round table consultation held this week, NOCAL vice president for Technical Services, Dr. Lester Tenny said this anticipated discovery cannot be successful in the absence of adequate investments into the processes or activities leading to said discovery, especially the launch of the upcoming bid round.

"We will find Oil. Ivory Coast discovered oil just right around the same area we are going to launch the bid round," he declared.

"The geology shows that we have oil. This means that there is prospect of oil but all we have not done is to discover it. This is why efforts are geared towards ensuring that the process leading to discovery is sanitized and prudently guided science."

However, to find the oil, the NOCAL VP noted the government must be willing to facilitate the processes leading to the discovery. adding, "we must invest and we must empower the LPRA. And I keep emphasizing this; we have to empower the regulator."

Dr. Tenny warned that it will be impossible to get the desire outcomes in the absence of adequate financial support, even if the country hires the services of all the geo-scientists and the legal experts.

Speaking further, he noted that there are indication that Liberia has oil as the fingerprints and the geology are there to prove that.

"The geology shows that we have oil. This means that there is prospect of oil but all we have not done is to discover oil," he said, adding, "This is why efforts are geared towards ensuring that the process leading to discovery is sanitized and prudently guided science."

The question about whether Liberia has oil in commercial quantity, according to the NOCAL VP, depends on the technology that is employed during the exploration and extraction or drilling processes.

"What people call commercial discovery is basically the cost of extraction not exceeding the expected profit. So, you can have oil but if to get the oil out costs more than the market value, people tell you that it is not commercially viable. But that does not also mean that that field cannot become viable in the future as a result of improved technology with lesser cost."

He urged the stakeholders to be optimistic that they are on the right trajectory, while assuring the LPRA leadership that NOCAL will continue to provide financial assistance, where possible.

"We also call on other stakeholders like the Ministry of Finance to support the process. "To realize the outcome of a bid round, the regulator must be financially liquid.

He warned that the term the sector is currently on is dangerous because in the absence of finance, all of the activities that will give birth to a successful bid round will be delayed."

"I have told Finance Minister, Samuel Tweah that the regulator needs to be sufficiently empowered. As a matter of fact, they are generating money. Oil money is not thousands of dollars, they are millions of dollars. And it is a logical investment because there will be a rate of return. So, we should support the regulator in whatever ways we should because that is the only way they will be successful. So, if we don't support them, sadly, we will be undermining the very process."

He expressed frustration over the lack of adequate support to the LPRA. "I was so frustrated when I heard that even the process of holding the stakeholders' roundtable was facing some financial glitches. I had to communicate immediately with my boss that we have to intervene"

"We need to be aware as stakeholders that the oil sector will bring in millions of dollars, but won't come running into you; it is you who have to run after it. And this in a nutshell means we have to invest adequately," he stated.

President Weah, in his state of the nation address in January announced the Government, through the LPRA will open the entire Harper Basin during the next licensing round beginning April.

The launch will mark a major step of the government's search for oil in commercial quantity --all in an effort to lure global petroleum giants into the country's oil sector.

Nine offshore blocks will be put up, allowing competent and reputable international oil and gas companies to bid with the hope of recommencing exploration programs, following years of inactivity.

The bid round allows a single oil company or a group of oil companies to apply for a 'Production Sharing Agreement' in a competitive and transparent environment giving them the right to search for commercial deposits of oil.

In an effort to give information on the licensing round, the LPRA, in collaboration with NOCAL this week, held a two-day round table consultation, bringing together members of the Legislature, selected ministries and agencies, civil society organizations and private institutions.

The LPRA Director General, Archie N. Donmoe, speaking at the event said the consultations demonstrate LPRA willingness to operate in an inclusive, transparent and accountable manner as required by law.

Mr. Donmoe said the Government of Liberia through LPRA and NOCAL have taken tremendous steps toward rebuilding a vibrant and viable oil and gas program by improving governance, transparency, accountability and equity participation of Liberians.

Mr. Donmoe noted that institutional, regulatory and policy frameworks have been designed.

"It is only prudent, as a country to begin to utilize this opportunity of licensing blocks for oil and gas exploration, an imperative to making any commercial or geological discovery."

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