Oil and gas finds lift western Indian Ocean prospects

(Seychelles News Agency) - “Western Indian Ocean is increasingly becoming a hot spot as reflected by the numerous discoveries of oil and gas resources in the sub-region. From Mozambique to Somalia, energy resource discoveries are drawing global attention,” says Dr Carlos Lopes, the Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) in reference to the hydrocarbon bonanza which has gripped the region.

“Gas discoveries in Mozambique and Tanzania, oil deposits and new discoveries in South Sudan and Uganda, offering of deep ocean exploration rights in Madagascar, Tanzania and recently in Seychelles - after a two years moratorium has opened the western Indian Ocean region to energy resource interests, including from China and India.”


In June last year the Indian Ocean island nation of Seychelles best known as a tourist haven joined the hydrocarbon fever that had spread across the entire western Indian Ocean. This was when it invited oil and gas exploration companies to bid for exploration oil blocks after its two year moratorium lapsed. This exploration freeze gave Seychelles time to review its energy sector’s legislation and consult with the industry and the Seychellois public in setting new rules for bidders. Seychelles was not new to oil surveys as it had conducted several assessments in the 90s.

“We decided to get a clear framework and adopted best practices and legislation from successful countries such as Norway,” says Jean Paul Adam, Seychelles Foreign Affairs minister. “The moratorium was meant to give us a better understanding and help us lay a proper foundation for oil and gas exploration in our country. We had to get it right from the start.”

At the time of the Seychelles exploration embargo WHL Energy an Australian firm and Afren Plc held offshore Seychelles petroleum exploration licenses. Early this year Ophir Energy a UK-based energy concern farmed in to earn a 75 per cent interest in WHL’s Seychelles stake.

Aware of the quest that has swept across the western Indian Ocean region in the last five years Seychelles decided to start with the policy framework before allowing prospective oil companies access to oil and gas blocks. “We signed the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) because we felt that it was better that oil companies know what they will be required to do upfront which essentially means a responsive industry.” Adam says. “In some cases it has been a disincentive. Some companies realized that it is easier to go to other places where there are less stringent rules.”