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Exxon Starts Drilling Offshore West Africa

ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Liberia Limited, an affiliate of ExxonMobil (NYSE:XOM), has started drilling a deepwater exploration well offshore West Africa in a first for an Exxon-operated well offshore of Liberia, Exxon’s partner in the project, Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited, said on Wednesday.

The Canadian company owns a 17-percent working interest in the Block LB-13 offshore Liberia, while ExxonMobil is the operator with a working interest of 83 percent.

Back in 2013, when Exxon received Liberia’s government approval for exploration, the U.S. company said: “We appreciate the vote of confidence from the government of Liberia in our capability to help develop the nation’s hydrocarbon resources.”

Last month, Exxon – whose E&P earnings have been feeling the oil price crash for the past two years – said that it was ready to start drilling offshore Liberia this month.

Exxon’s venture into Liberian offshore drilling coincides with the withdrawal from Liberia of independent oil and gas exploration company African Petroleum. The company said that its production sharing contracts (PSCs) for two blocks offshore Liberia have expired and would not be extended. African Petroleum has been looking for partners for the PSCs, but has received little interest due to the challenging market conditions for exploration and the lack of commercial discoveries in Liberia, the company noted.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the West African Coastal Province – comprising the coasts along Sierra Leone, Liberia and Ivory Coast - is estimated to hold mean volumes of 3.2 billion barrels of oil, 23.629 trillion cubic feet of gas, and 721 million barrels of natural gas liquids. The estimated mean size of the largest oil field expected to be discovered is 783 million barrels of oil, while the estimated mean size of the expected largest gas field is 4.695 trillion cubic feet of gas.

By Tsvetana Paraskova for Oilprice.com

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