1. Oil Development Grows in Africa
Mozambique has spent nearly two decades struggling to recover from the bloodshed and devastation of its civil war, an effort hindered by drought, flood and famine. But off the coast of this former Portuguese colony in southeast Africa, Houston oil company Anadarko said this year that it has unearthed the key to a new chapter in Mozambique's history: the world's largest natural gas discovery in a decade.
Anadarko's proposal to make Mozambique a major liquefied natural gas exporter is just one of a succession of new oil and gas projects being launched on both the east and west coasts of Africa. Although petroleum geologists long have believed the continent held vast stores of resources beyond those of established producers Angola, Nigeria and Libya, the potential remained untapped, due to political volatility and exploration costs.
But a more peaceful climate in some countries has dawned just at a time when sustained high global oil prices and 3-D seismic technology have made exploration in more economically feasible. In addition to Mozambique, Uganda and Somalia are seen as new frontiers on Africa's east coast. On the west coast, oil rigs are working offshore in Sierra Leone and Liberia, the latter a country that has never before produced crude oil.
The rig pictured off the coast of Ghana is seen as at the vanguard of this new African exploration drive; late in 2010, the poor but relatively politically stable nation began much-anticipated first production.
But the experience so far from its Jubilee offshore field has dampened expectations: Production, now at about 80,000 barrels per day, is about one-third less than expected, due to mechanical glitches related to well design, according to the London-based operating partner Tullow Oil.
The political landscape also has been tricky. Ghana's national oil company has a 13.75 percent interest in Jubilee, but a petroleum revenue management law wasn't ratified by the nation's parliament until April. Revenue Watch Institute, a New York-based nonprofit watchdog, said it was a positive development that the law created an independent group to monitor the government. Still, lingering concerns remain over government transparency in collecting and spending the oil money, and managing potential spills. And some local communities are grumbling they should be benefiting more from the several hundreds of millions of dollars of revenue already added to government coffers.
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