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The conflict over the former Spanish Sahara is all too often forgotten. But there is a growing feeling in policy circles – shared by companies eager to exploit the territory’s hydrocarbons and mineral potential – that the Western Sahara standoff is overdue a promotion up the international policy agenda. Crisis in the Sahel, where French and African Union forces have confronted jihadist radicals in Mali, has added to pressures to revisit the intractable conflict, more than 40 years since the Polisario Front liberation movement was formed, 38 years since Morocco’s late King Hassan II organised his ‘Green March’ into the territory, and 22 years since a United Nations-sponsored ceasefire was declared.

Morocco
Free

Under immense pressure from the global spread of Covid-19 and plunging oil demand, governments and IOCs must once again fine-tune their strategies to meet hostile market conditions. This may mean not only delaying upstream projects but cancelling them altogether as, in the longer term, global markets shift out of carbon dependency.In the short term, efforts to revive the so-called Opec+ cooperation between Opec and non-Opec crude exporters should help to reverse the price slump, but the deal seems unlikely to raise prices to levels envisaged in producer governments’ 2020 budget forecasts.

Free

President Muhammadu Buhari finally responded to popular concerns over security by replacing his military top team on 26 January. With the economy hobbled by low oil prices and coronavirus, he has allowed a little more economic flexibility, although it remains to be seen whether his costly defence of the naira’s inflated value will be replaced by the foreign exchange market unification favoured by the International Monetary Fund and World Bank.

Nigeria
Free

Headlines in mid-October suggested renewed vibrancy in the Nigerian hydrocarbons industry under President Muhammadu Buhari, talking of mega-deals involving ExxonMobil and Indian investment, and plans for exploration in the north-east (see Upstream) and to raise domestic refining capacity to 650,000 b/d (from 445,000 b/d). But the divestment to the local Nipco Investments of ExxonMobil’s 60% stake in Mobil Oil Nigeria leaves Total as the sole major still operating in the downstream; the Indian deal, if it can be delivered, seems a desperate effort to raise cash. International oil companies (IOCs) continue to downsize, amid a damaging escalation of Niger Delta violence.

Nigeria
Free

For an industry in which the need for large-scale investments often means developments take years, if not decades, to come to fruition, things can move remarkably quickly in the world of natural gas exports.

Nigeria | Algeria
Free

The latest development in the campaign to get Ghana and its oil industry partners to disclose details of their contracts illustrates just how haphazard the process can be. As a part of the Initial Public Offering (IPO) filing by Kosmos Energy with the US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), all of the petroleum agreements related to the Jubilee field are now available at the SEC website

Ghana
Free

Announcing job losses and investment cutbacks, Big Oil’s flagship companies are emitting signals that should be heeded by those African oil-producing governments that are less inclined to believe the world is changing to their disadvantage. Dramatic announcements of changes of strategic direction by BP, Eni, Royal Dutch Shell and Total suggest most majors see their futures as diversified energy companies, rather than old-style IOCs.

Free

There has been some respite for oil producers with crude rising above $60/bbl and Opec and its allies agreeing on 4 March to further stabilise the market by rolling over their quota regime (except for Russia and Kazakhstan, which Opec kingpin Saudi Arabia agreed could have increases while it maintained its extra 1m b/d cut). This will please price hawks who fear another slump later this year will further undermine oil producers’ economies; they are opposed by output hawks, who want to produce more oil to maximise their revenues now.

Angola | Nigeria | Algeria
Free

There is a curious disconnection between Egypt’s dire political and financial straits and the relatively upbeat assessments from the international oil companies (IOCs) developing assets there. In spite of the continued closure of Eni and Union Fenosa’s Damietta LNG export terminal and the substantial debt owed by Egyptian General Petroleum Corporation (EGPC) to domestic gas producers, long-term prospects still appear to justify investments.

Egypt
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With further progress in its electricity privatisation, increased food production due to investment in agriculture, and capital markets responding favourably to banks and bonds, it is easy to be drawn into the bubble of optimism that has built up around the Nigerian economy and its prospects. Away from the conflict zones of the north and Niger Delta, real progress has been made, but for every bit of positive newsflow there is a reality check, such as a new report from the Royal Institute of International Affairs (Chatham House) which examines illegal oil exports – a still little understood cog in the machine of money and power-broking that defines public life in Nigeria.

Nigeria
Free

A commercial agreement on the joint exploitation of hydrocarbons between Angolan national oil company Sonangol and its Congolese equivalent, Cohydro, has sparked controversy in Kinshasa. Key provisions within the agreement remain unclear, and there are fears the deal will reduce Democratic Republic of Congo’s access to potential offshore reserves. The Angolan and Congolese authorities first agreed to look for ways to jointly explore for oil and gas in the Zone d’Intérêt Commun, a 10km offshore corridor covering Angolan blocks 1, 14, 15 and 31, in 2007. But given DRC’s limited access to the sea, and Angola’s determination to maximise its own access to potential oil fields, the stakes have been high and progress has been commensurately slow.

DR Congo | Angola
Free

The Government of Southern Sudan will not compromise in negotiations with the north over the status of Abyei, and is prepared to take up arms again if the impasse continues

South Sudan | Sudan
Free

The issues that African Energy covers have risen much higher up the global agenda than seemed likely when the first issue was published in April 1998, when global concern about sub-Saharan Africa’s struggle to provide electricity to hard-pressed populations and industrial users, and the continent’s potential to provide energy to a fast-changing global economy driven by growth in emerging markets, seemed considerably less than now.

Free

While there is still much more exploration work to be done, Kenya’s discovery of oil is important for more than just national pride. The find, announced in April by Block 10BB operator Tullow Oil, is a significant stabilising factor for regional development as it enables the East African Community (EAC)’s main economic and political power to take a seat at the table alongside its hitherto luckier neighbours.

Kenya | Uganda | Tanzania
Free

The problems of Nigeria’s southeast are rarely far from being a political and oil company preoccupation. Issues of governance and reputational damage weigh heavy on majors’ perceptions about operating in a lucrative but troubled region as lawyers busy themselves acting for local communities against Royal Dutch Shell and potentially other IOCs in a series of class actions. The new military top team appointed by President Muhammadu Buhari is challenged with reducing insecurity, including from rising levels of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea.

Nigeria