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Since Abdelmoumen Ould Kaddour took over as head of Sonatrach in March, his background and history have come under intense scrutiny. While some industry participants hope that his commercial experience and attitude can revivify both Sonatrach and the oil and gas sector more generally, some controversial aspects of his past could be used to destabilise him and undermine his legitimacy. The focus of reports has been on his 2007 conviction for divulging state secrets, the business activities of his family, and his alleged French citizenship.

Algeria
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In the absence of President Muhammadu Buhari – who was in London until 10 March on extended medical leave, the energetic acting president, Oluyemi Oluleke Osinbajo, has been leading efforts to reduce tensions and offer the prospect of economic inclusion in the Niger Delta. Osinbajo on 2 March called on minister of state for petroleum Ibe Kachikwu to begin engaging with international oil companies (IOCs) to move their Nigerian head offices to the troubled region.

Nigeria
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The promise of generous social and economic assistance from the Tunisian government to the local community on Kerkennah Island in the Gulf of Gabès may not be enough to dissuade Petrofac from withdrawing from its gas production concession there. The UK-based company threatened to leave in September following eight months of protests and blockades which have severely interrupted its operations. Its threat prompted the government to offer a package of investments, which was accepted by local unions but not, it seems, by Petrofac.

Tunisia
Issue 340 - 16 February 2017

ICJ can adjudicate border case

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The International Court of Justice in The Hague has ruled that it can hear the dispute between Somalia and Kenya over their shared maritime border in the Indian Ocean. The court found that it did have jurisdiction to adjudicate on the dispute, and that Somalia’s application is admissible (AE 339/19). Kenya now has until 18 December to file a counter-memorial.

Kenya | Somalia
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The US Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has fined Hyperdynamics $75,000 over its management of public relations and lobbying payments in Guinea. The company agreed to pay the fine without admitting or denying the SEC’s findings, and says it has incurred $12.7m in legal and other professional fees during the investigation. In May, the US Department of Justice closed its investigation into possible violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA) without bringing charges against the company.

Guinea
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Edinburgh-based Savannah Petroleum signed a production-sharing contract (PSC) with the government on 4 July for the R1/ R2 licence area. The signing ceremony in Niamey was attended by UK Conservative MP Stephen O’Brien, a former international development minister described by Savannah as “a former industrialist who has a personal interest in Niger and Africa”. O’Brien was born in the southern Tanzanian port of Mtwara.

Niger
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With more than half of production shut in, a security deficit under which many international oil companies (IOCs) will not operate, and budget and decision-making problems which mean that new projects are stymied, there are few ways in which National Oil Corporation (NOC) and the Ministry of Oil and Gas can move forward. But officials are pushing ahead with the drafting of a new hydrocarbons law. In March, the ministry formed a 21-member Petroleum Law Review Committee containing specialists from within and outside the sector. It is chaired by Najmi Karim, who was previously chairman of Mellitah Oil and Gas. A committee to revise the terms of the new EPSA-V licensing model has been established in parallel.

Libya
Free

Robert Sirleaf, son of President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, has resigned as president of National Oil Company of Liberia (Nocal) and as a presidential adviser, saying that the passing of new oil laws means his job is done. “With the submission to our national legislature of a comprehensive modernisation of the laws governing Liberia’s petroleum sector and Nocal… my job is complete,” Sirleaf said in a 17 September resignation letter addressed to his mother. Nocal vice-president for public affairs Israel Akinsaya resigned the same day “due to pressing family matters”.

Liberia
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Chinese interests have paid $16m to the new rebel government in Central African Republic for exploration rights to half of Block A, which was previously licensed to veteran Denver oilman Jack Grynberg’s RSM Production Corporation. The 54,000km2 block is in remote northern CAR but could potentially use the Chad-Cameroon pipeline for export. Other companies have pursued the licence, with less success. “We can’t compete with the Chinese,” one oil executive told African Energy. 


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Companies with uncommercial exploration commitments may be able to annul contracts without penalty following the second anniversary of the revolution. Companies which have yet to lift force majeure on their EPSA IV contracts may be able to take advantage of a clause stipulating automatic termination if force majeure is in place after two years. One Libya-based manager said: “Some companies have decided to stay with the force majeure notification and probably even terminate their contracts”.

Libya
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Parliament has ratified a petroleum agreement for the highly prospective Deepwater Cape Three Points West Block, adjacent to the Jubilee field. Namibia-focused Eco (Atlantic) Oil & Gas will operate the block with a 50.51% stake, while Nigerian-owned A-Z Petroleum Products Ghana will have 32.14%, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) will hold 13%, and GNPC Exploration and Production Company will hold 4.35%. The contract area covers 944km² in water depths of between 800 and 2,000 metres. Eco Atlantic was founded by president and chief executive Gil Holzman, described as having “significant experience in the mining and energy resource sectors throughout Africa”, and chief operating officer Colin Kinley, who has developed several energy start-ups, including Adira Energy.

Ghana
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Concerns have been raised about plans to revise minerals legislation that would see the disbanding of the regulatory Petroleum Agency SA and give the state the right to a free carried interest in new contracts. The draft Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Amendment 2012, which is chiefly aimed at reforming the mining industry, delegates all functions currently exercised by the Petroleum Agency to ‘regional managers’ of the Department of Mineral Resources who are responsible for handling mining applications.

South Africa
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President Joseph Kabila Kabange has finally approved all outstanding oil contracts, according to a presidential decree published in the official gazette dated 22 June. But while closing one set of controversies over resources contract awards, Kabila has opened up another with the decision to award Lake Albert blocks 1 and 2 to two obscure British Virgin Islands-based outfits called Caprikat Ltd and Foxwhelp Ltd,

DR Congo
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President Alpha Condé’s election offers the prospect of democratic rule, but he faces an enormous task in developing his troubled state to meet voters’ and investors’ expectations, writes Thalia Griffiths, recently in Conakry

Guinea
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Ghana’s transformation into an oil producer has been an uneven, sometimes politicised process. But efforts to get legislation and new institutions in place, and to normalise relations with IOC partners, are creating a more sustainable environment for all stakeholders

Ghana