Liberians, Beware Another Oil Exploration

23 February 2020

Liberia is gearing up for second round of bidding for offshore oil explorations slated for April 2020. The Executive Mansion announced in late December, 2019 plan by the Weah administration to put on sale nine offshore blocks in the Harper Basin, reportedly one of the last unexplored and undrilled regions offshore West Africa.

Already, stakeholders under the auspices of the Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Authority and the National Oil Company of Liberia have been meeting in Monrovia on the prospects for oil and gas here.

The Vice President for Technical Services at NOCAL, Dr. Lester Tenny, is passionately optimistic about prospects of finding the 'black gold' in Liberia. "Liberia does have oil; the fingerprints are there; we just need to discover the oil", he told the stakeholders' roundtable last week.

However, Liberians should be cautious this time around, in raising euphoria for oil, judging from past experiences that became nothing else but mere illusion like quick sand. Former President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf raised excitement about oil and sold about a dozen blocks to foreign companies, including the American oil giant, ExxonMobile. But after a period of drills and explorations, the result came that Liberia lacks oil quantity for commercial purpose.

Even the very NOCAL that headed the process proceeded in a way that left ordinary Liberians disappointed and the entire country frustrated under the watch of Madam Sirleaf. After spending millions of dollars on staff salaries and benefits, substandard public projects and so-called nationwide awareness by dishonest lawmakers, the entire exercise tumbled with NOCAL declaring bankruptcy. The former President eventually took responsibility and the rest is history.

Not that we are pessimists or prophets of doom, but experiences of the past in this sector requires that we proceed circumspectly to avoid treading the same path or repeating errors from the past.

According to the international oil website based in Norway, geophysical company TGS holds a range of multi-client data across the Harper Basin to support the licensing round, including 5,272 kilometers of 2D and 6,276 square kilometers of 3D seismic, gravity and magnetic data.

It detailed that Syn-rift structural traps can be identified over much of the area, which offer multi-level prospectivity and that cretaceous slope and basin floor fan systems demonstrating high amplitude character have been identified, some of which cover over 300 square kilometers, while volumetric assessment of these features suggests field sizes over a billion barrels of oil in place could be present here.

That sounds good and we applaud the government and partners for these studies that are giving us hope. Notwithstanding, we call on the current administration, particularly the LPRA and the NOCAL to work in concert in delivering a result for the Liberian people that would be a great departure from the past.

We challenge President George Manneh Weah to make this oil dream both a reality and a blessing for Liberia by ensuring that if this vital global commodity is discovered in our waters, it would benefit not only the present generation, but generations to come.

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