August 19, 2011
Windhoek – In just the past 30 days, four huge petroleum firms have expressed a firm desire to get a stake of Africa's oil.
Significantly, none of them are African. Apart from the corporate advances for Africa's 'black gold', NATO's bombing of Libya has largely been interpreted as an attempt by France, the United States and Britain to control that country's petroleum industry.
According to a report by African Petroleum - an oil-focused website – the past month has seen French, British and Kuwaiti companies moving into the continent.
Petrol Africa, an industry monitoring body, has since documented the scramble for the black gold.
Africa is the last oil frontier, with the resources in the Middle East, Russia and the upper North Atlantic already fully accounted for.
Some of the multinationals that are scrambling for the resource include Tap Oil, which recently poured in US$1.5 million to increase its stake in Ghana's oil fields by 15 percent; Noble Corp International, which is exploring oil in conjunction with the Egypt's Gujarat State Petroleum; while Chariot Gas has moved into Namibia's nascent oil sector.
Chariot Gas is using a wholly-owned subsidiary, Enigma Oil and Gas to explore the resource in Namibia.
To go about its business, Chariot has signed an agreement with geophysical specialists PGS that gives them a 10 percent stake in that firm in return for funding for pre-feasibility studies.
Chariot will retain 90 percent equity upon completion of the pre-feasibility study, while PGS will fund 50 percent of the 3D seismic studies.
The survey will cover a minimum area of 2 500 square kilometers at a gross cost of US$25 million, and is expected to take approximately 75 days to complete.
The programme will start in the last quarter of 2011.
Chariot's venture was announced by CEO Paul Welch, who said: 'We are very pleased to have completed this farm-out with PGS… this commitment and expenditure by PGS further demonstrates the growing industry interest in offshore Namibia where Chariot has an enviable acreage position.'
Namibia's oil is attracting a lot of interest, HRT of Brazil moving into the country in a really big way.
The last four months have seen HRT expending considerable resource to get a foothold in the Orange and Walvis basins of Namibia, although the firm is still to complete drilling feasibility studies to ascertain the profitability of the venture.
France's Total has announced that it is looking to expand its position on Africa's east coast with the addition of significant acreage in Kenya.
Martin Heya, the country's Commissioner for Petroleum, announced through Petroleum Africa last week that Total Kenya had approached the government in May about a specific block.
'Total is waiting for the government to survey the block and negotiate,' Heya said.
China has announced its interest to tap into the Northern Sudan's oil fields and Foreign Minister Yang Jeichi was in that country last week.
'While a significant amount of the newly created Republic of South Sudan's crude is produced by Chinese firms, China is looking to secure its ties to the Khartoum government and secure exploration acreage in the north,' said Jeichi.
Exploration will be carried out by China National Petroleum Corp.
But the scramble for Africa's oil has not been all about cash and diplomacy.
As has already been seen in Libya, oil-hungry nations are prepared to go to war to get their hands on the resource that is vital to the military-industrial complex.
Analyst Brian E Muhamma, in a paper titled 'Africa's Curse of Oil and Gold' earlier this year wrote that the war in Libya was about petroleum and not human rights or democracy as was being claimed.
Quoting Professor Jean-Paul Pougala of the Geneva School of Diplomacy, he wrote; ''It is easy to understand the French wrath against Gaddafi.'
He added: 'According to the International Monetary Fund, Libya's Central Bank is 100 percent state-owned and estimates that the bank has nearly 144 tons of gold in its vaults.
'Gaddafi could change the purchasing terms of his oil and other Libyan commodities sold on the world market and only accepted gold as payment; a policy like that wouldn't be welcomed by the power elites who control the world's central banks.
'That would certainly be something that would cause his immediate dismissal.'
Writing in The New Statesman as early as June 2007, Christopher Thompson foresaw armed conflict in Africa over oil.
'The west's increasing dependency on African oil … gives particular urgency to these new directions in the fight against terrorism.
'Africa's enormous, and largely untapped, reserves are already more important to the west than most Americans recognize.
'In March 2006, speaking before the Senate armed services committee, General James Jones, the then head of EUCOM (Europe Command, the equivalent of Africa Command), said: 'Africa currently provides over 15 percent of US oil imports, and recent explorations in the Gulf of Guinea region indicate potential reserves that could account for 25 35 percent of US imports within the next decade'.
'These high-quality reserves - West African oil is typically low in sulphur and thus ideal for refining - are easily accessible by sea to Western Europe and the US.
'In 2005, the US imported more oil from the Gulf of Guinea than it did from Saudi Arabia and Kuwait combined. Within the next ten years it will import more oil from Africa than from the entire Middle East.
'Western oil giants such as ExxonMobil, Chevron, France's Total and Britain's BP and Shell plan to invest tens of billions of dollars in sub-Saharan Africa (far in excess of 'aid' inflows to the region).'
Other analysts also see growing militarization of Western 'diplomacy' in Africa in the context of oil
According to Nicholas Shaxson, the author of 'Poisoned Wells: the Dirty Politics of African Oil: '(AFRICOM) comes in the context of a growing conflict with China over our oil supplies.'
Another analyst, Daniel Volman, adds: 'Africa is the final frontier as far as the world's supplies of energy (both oil and natural gas) are concerned.
'World oil production is only just meeting world demand and old fields are being drained faster that new production can be brought on line.
'Supplies will be tight for the foreseeable future, so any new source of supply is significant. Most importers are also trying to reduce their dependence on Middle Eastern oil. In the next 10-15 years, most of the new oil entering the world market is going to be coming from African fields because it is only in Africa — and to a lesser extent in the volatile Central Asia region — that substantial new fields have been found and brought into production.
'As in the Middle East and the Caspian Sea region before it, Africa is now a target for military intervention by the United States, France, China, and other powers competing to gain control over energy supplies.'
Volman notes that since 1980, the US has been officially committed (in the words of President Jimmy Carter which have become known as the 'Carter Doctrine') to the use of 'any means necessary, including military force' to ensure the free-flow of Persian Gulf oil.
'President Clinton announced the establishment of military ties with the new republics of Central Asia as needed because 'in a world of growing energy demand, our nation cannot afford to rely on any single region for our energy supplies'.
'Now the 'Carter Doctrine' has been extended to Africa.'
With rising demand for oil, Africa should prepare for more of what is happening in Libya.