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Roundup: Namibia's elusive oil - some exploration companies pack up

Xinhua, April 13, 2015 Adjust font size:

About five international oil companies have failed to find oil off the coast of Namibia in recent years, despite promises and signs that somewhere under the waters the golden liquid lies in abundance.

So far, oil exploration companies have dug 18 wells but walked away with empty barrels.

There was hope in 2013 when HRT Participacoes em Petroleo SA announced that they were about to get oil in the Walvis Bay Basin.

With fanfare and much pomp, the company showed off samples of what they called noncommercial oil, which could lead them to the source of real oil.

The find set Namibia's hopes high when prospects that come with oil dawned on the ordinary people who foresaw job opportunities and improved living standards.

At the time, the company called for a press conference at State House that was attended by the then Prime Minister now president Hage Geingob and the then trade minister, Calle Schlettwein, who is now the finance minister.

In a statement, HRT said it had identified two well-developed source rocks rich in organic carbon. Both are in the oil- generating window.

It also said the well also encountered several oil-saturated, thin-bedded-sandy reservoirs, and had collected four 450-cc samples.

HRT had 10 blocks in four licenses off the Namibian coast. The company drilled three wells between 2012 and 2013 but failed to find any commercially viable oil.

But less than two years later, those hopes have been dashed after the company started folding up and closing down its offices in Windhoek.

Minister of mines and energy Obeth Kandjoze has said he was aware that HRT was retrenching some of its 10 workers at the capital Windhoek office.

Petroleum Commissioner Immanuel Mulunga also said they are aware of internal problems dogging HRT in Brazil.

"We are being told unofficially that they are no longer interested in pursuing their exploration efforts in Namibia and we know that they are winding up their business in this country. We will be approaching them shortly for clarification on the way forward," Mulunga said, adding that HRT's licenses had also expired.

Other companies that are either still trying their luck or have tried and given are: Tullow Oil Plc,Total SA, BP Plc and Chariot Oil & Gas Ltd have not been lucky.

Last year, Spain's Repsol SA, started drilling in the Walvis Bay Basin with hopes of striking it rich. After sinking in about 1 billion Namibian dollars (about 83 million U.S. dollars), Repsol came out dry.

The Australian company, Tullow Oil Plc, announced also that they would start drilling their block off the coast of Namibia this year.

The company further said its chances of striking oil were high after acquiring a block from Pancontinental Oil & Gas.

Speaking during last year's oil and gas conference held in Windhoek end of September, Tullow Oil Plc chief executive officer Barry Rushworth said they would carry out 3D seismic survey in June last year.

The UK energy explorer, Chariot Oil & Gas Ltd, has also sunk in millions of U.S. dollars in a bid to reach oil but to no avail.

The company hold licenses for eight blocks in Namibia, which, according to its chief executive officer Larry Bottomley, would require anything between 80 million and 100 million U.S. dollars to drill.

Bottomley who also attended the oil and gas conference said Chariot would look for a partner with knowledge of deep water drilling for its next bid.

"We are looking to partner and secure a rig as soon as possible to drill at one of the prospects," he said. "Right now I have no idea on when and with who we will do the drilling but we are working very hard and we are very optimistic about Namibia."

Since then, there has not been any news as to whether Chariot had acquired such a partner or when their next drill exercise would start.

Bottomley believes, despite the past failures that the Namibian coast sits on massive amounts of oil.

He said: "Namibia has potential for discovery, giant scale discovery." Endi