Ivory Coast plans to conclude the licensing of six oil blocks by June as the country seeks to increase crude output amid rising interest from supermajors to explore in West Africa.
The government is in talks with French and Italian majors about the blocks, Minister of Petroleum, Energy and Renewable Energy Abdourahmane Cisse said in an interview in Cape Town on Monday, declining to identify the companies. The country was nearing production-sharing deals for at least four blocks with Total SA and Eni SpA, people familiar with the matter said in November.
Ivory Coast has 48 demarcated oil blocks, of which four are in production and another 24 under exploration, Cisse said. Output averages about 70,000 barrels per day, but “the potential is a lot higher,” he said.
Producers from BP Plc to Tullow Oil Plc are exploring in the world’s biggest cocoa grower as operators are raising output to about 200,000 barrels per day in neighboring Ghana. Ivory Coast is seeking to diversify an economy whose exports are dominated by shipments of the chocolate ingredient and gold.
The government would like to increase the participation of local companies in its oil sector, even though it has no plans to make major changes to the sector’s code, said Cisse. The existing code is “actually pretty good” and any future alterations will not cause harm to existing participants, he said.
There are no signs that presidential elections scheduled for 2020 are causing uncertainty among investors or prompting them to put decisions on hold, said Cisse. In 2010, ex-President Laurent Gbagbo’s refusal to accept defeat in a vote triggered Ivory Coast’s worst-ever crisis in which at least 3,000 people died during a five-month standoff.
“We have six contracts that we’re negotiating right now with majors,” said Cisse. “It’s a sign that they actually believe in the country, otherwise they won’t be looking at it. We won’t have a remake of 2010.”