Since the end of civil unrest the authorities have made efforts to attract investment into the sector. Côte d’ Ivoire’s geographic position bodes well for an increase in oil and gas discoveries: it lies on an area between two tectonic plates called the West African transform margin, which has been the source of several oil findings in the past, although these have mostly benefitted Ghana.
Furthermore, in 2012 and 2013 the government published new regulations for the oil and gas sector, which emphasise the rehabilitation of existing production sites, the promotion of new exploration efforts, greater sector transparency and stricter environmental rules. In line with this, the country also improved the regulations overseeing production-sharing contracts (PSCs). Between 2011 and 2014 a total of 19 blocks out of 33 were allocated to 11 hydrocarbons players, with 14 PSCs signed during this period. Moreover, an additional six PSCs were signed between 2016 and 2017, with Ophir, Vitol, Total E&P and Eni.
A number of international oil and gas players are now operating in the hydrocarbons sector. This has led to exploration of new, potentially interesting areas like seabeds. Interest is also fuelled by rising electricity consumption and the need to secure additional gas supply. Therefore, the authorities have been offering up new blocks for exploration through new contracts.
Italian hydrocarbons firm Eni secured 90% of two exploration blocks, CI-101 and CI-205, in early 2017. They are located in the Tano Basin, covering a total area of 2850 sq km. The two new plots are located close to Block CI-100, another area in which Eni has been operating since 2015, and where the firm has a 30% interest. Investment also came from US-based Anadarko Petroleum, which signed a PSC in 2014 for deepwater exploration drilling in block CI-527, which was allocated an initial exploration budget of $30m until 2018. The firm has a 90% stake in the plot, with the remaining 10% belonging to state-owned oil company Société Nationale d’Opérations Pétrolièrs de la Côte d’Ivoire (Petroci). Anadarko has also been exploring in blocks CI-103, CI-527 and CI-528.
In October 2017 Irish firm Tullow Oil announced it had acquired 90% stakes in four oil blocks off Côte d’Ivoire, announcing it would begin exploration work in the short term. The area, made up of blocks CI-518, CI-519, CI-301 and CI-302, is over 5000 sq km. Petroci holds the remaining 10% in each of the four blocks. Tullow already owns a 21.33% stake in the Espoir field, which has a daily oil output of roughly 35,000 barrels per day.
Exploration efforts have led to new commercial discoveries. Russian Lukoil announced it had found oil and gas in late 2011 in its CI-401 plot. In April 2014 the Russian firm announced a new discovery, this time in another deepwater well, CI-101. In 2013 and 2014 French group Total also announced it had discovered oil in its CI-100 and CI-514 blocks. Some explorations, however, have not fared as well in comparison. UK-based Ophir Energy, for example, announced in mid-2017 that drilling at its Ayamé-1X well in Côte d’Ivoire had not yielded commercially viable oil reserves. Furthermore, after returning in 2014, US-based ExxonMobil left the country once again in 2017.
On September 2017 the Special Chamber of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea handed down its judgment regarding a litigation from Ghana against Côte d’Ivoire, with the process having commenced in December 2014. The dispute came after Côte d’Ivoire sought compensation for developments in the area by mulitnational Tullow Oil, as part of its Tweneboa, Enyenra and Ntomme fields plan. The main issue was the delimitation of the maritime boundary out to 200 nautical miles and beyond. The decision, which favoured Ghana, drew to a conclusion a decade-long debate on this issue. While Côte d’Ivoire, nor Ivorian-based companies had invested in the area, Reuters reported that a loss for Ghana would have resulted in complicated contract renegotiations and loss of significant revenue that could worsen the economy.
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