Oil hopes fade offshore Congo

British-based SOCO International comes up empty drilling in deep West African waters.
By Daniel J. Graeber Follow @dan_graeber Contact the Author   |   Feb. 26, 2016 at 9:05 AM
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LONDON, Feb. 26 (UPI) -- Central African oil player SOCO International said it came up empty-handed while drilling in the waters off the coast of the Republic of Congo.

SOCO in early February said it started drilling into the Baobab Marine 1 block off the Congolese coast. At the time, the company said the well, drilled into an area not previously known to carry reserves, had characteristics similar to other oil-bearing sites in the region. The well, the company said, was targeting prospective reserves of around 350 million barrels of oil.

"No hydrocarbons were encountered," the company said in a statement. With drilling in the deep waters completed, the company said it was able to confirm the site was not associated with other known reserves off the Congolese coast.

West Africa has drawn interest from international energy companies eager to tap into unexploited reserves. Tullow Oil, one of the largest players in the region, said its working interest of total oil production should be in the range of 73,000 to 80,000 barrels of oil equivalent, driven in large part by projects near the coast of Ghana.

SOCO was under pressure for its activities onshore in the Democratic Republic of Congo because of operations inside the Virunga National Park, a protected area and home to the endangered mountain gorillas.

The company in November said it was writing off the costs associated with operations after giving up its DRC license in the park. SOCO signed a production sharing agreement with the DRC government in 2006.

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