UAE's Crescent Petroleum eyes Africa exploration

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Crescent Petroleum, the Middle East’s oldest privately-owned oil and gas company, is considering exploration opportunities in sub-Saharan Africa, CEO Majid Jafar told Arabian Business.

The Sharjah-based firm, along with affiliate Dana Gas, currently has interests in oil and gas fields in the UAE, Egypt, Qatar and Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, but is also looking to take advantage of Africa’s hydrocarbons boom.

“On the oil and gas side we’re looking beyond the MENA region in the old sense and we’re looking at potential in Africa [for] Crescent Petroleum. We’re looking at opportunities that are slightly wider,” Jafar said in an interview with Arabian Business, while declining to name specific countries. “West Africa has been known to be an oil basin for a long time [and] East Africa recently has recently become very interesting in terms of oil and gas potential, and specifically in gas. We’re now expanding our business development to include these other areas.”

Africa is believed to currently supply about 12 percent of the world’s oil, with untapped reserves of approximately 132.4 trillion barrels, or 8 percent of proven reserves globally. According to a report by PricewaterhouseCoopers, the continent has natural gas reserves of 513.2 trillion cubic feet, or 7 percent of the world’s supply.

The report said that only about 30 percent of 2,900 blocks in sub-Saharan Africa have so far been licenced.

Kenya, Mozambique, Nigeria and Angola have all planned bidding rounds for this year, while even unrecognised Somaliland has opened its borders to outside exploration companies.

Jafar also told Arabian Business that the Crescent and Dana was also eyeing opportunities in hydrocarbons within MENA that were outside its core markets in the Gulf and Iraqi Kurdistan. “Even within MENA there are countries that are opening up that were never seen as oil and gas regions, like Lebanon,” he said. “There’s been a lot of gas discoveries recently in the eastern Mediterranean. Until a couple of years ago it was considered only a consumption area for energy.”

According to a study by the US Geological Survey, it is estimated that the Levant basin has about 122 tcf of undiscovered, technically recoverable natural gas and holds 1.7bn barrels of undiscovered technically recoverable oil.

Crescent has previously held interests in oil and gas blocks in Canada, Argentina and Montenegro, but has since relinquished or sold these on.

Dana and its major shareholder Crescent are among the largest foreign investors in Iraqi Kurdistan, to date pouring more than $1bn into the region.

Pearl Petroleum, a consortium of energy investors led by Dana and which also includes Crescent, last month filed arbitration proceedings in London against the Kurdistan Regional Government over payments and production rights for the Khor Mor and Chemchemal fields. Dana alone has previously said it is owed $430m by Kurdish authorities.

“It’s for the sake of clarification of rights, part of which is receivables, and that’s within the contract,” Jafar said of arbitration proceedings. “To be clear our operations continue unaffected, we’re proud of our achievements there and we’re confident the rights of the investor will be respected, and these issues will be resolved hopefully as soon as possible so we can move forward in fully and properly developing the fields, which is very much in the interests of the Kurdistan region.”

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