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Black Gold in Morocco…?

Very soon on the news?

Will Morocco join the club of oil-producing countries?

Last July, the press reported that the Moroccan officials are waiting impatiently for the green light to start exploiting oil. According to the Minister of energy, Youssef Atahiry, Morocco possesses the largest revenue in oil rocks in the world. Therefore, Moroccan government is called to give much importance to this phenomenon. Yet, the exploitation of these rocks won't start until the prices of oil reach $38 per barrel and once the government becomes able to cover the expenses of this project. Many foreign companies are now installed in Morocco in order to carry out the project. "The results look very promising but nothing is palpable yet. We can not declare officially any news concerning the presence of oil in the region unless we reach palpable results ", the Minister said.

Morocco has concluded many agreements with foreign companies during the last few years so as to achieve this aim. "We are very optimistic and hopeful that Morocco becomes one day one of the oil producing countries," the Minister added.

The government has recently delivered 18 licenses relating to exploration projects and it still receives a number of applications from different foreign companies including Canadian, American, Australian which are also willing to take part in the project. Some economic sources specialized in the oil industry declared that the geological composition of Morocco indicates that our country possesses many oil fields which are as important as those we can find on the Mediterranean sea. Further, The latest discoveries of oil in the Mexican Gulf and Western Africa reinforce this claim. It is actually these scientific data which explain the increasing interest of these companies to invest in the region. Some of which have already claimed they have already discovered some fields of oil in Morocco and wish they could exploit large quantities of it very soon.

Rumours on the find dated back to last summer, when the Moroccan weekly newspaper Al Ousboua recently reported from private sources, that Skid Moure, an American Petroleum Company has now drilled almost three thousand meters under the ground and that it expects to find petroleum in Morocco very soon.
These results were reported to the competent authorities in Morocco and the government will officially announce this news in the two weeks to come.
The Economy Enterprise was the first one to publish a photographed file about the first operations of drilling.

Earlier this month, the Moroccan Minister of Energy and Mining, Mr. Youssef Tahiri, said it is difficult for the time being to assert that oil exists in Morocco. "We are in a phase of drilling and prospecting and it is difficult to affirm with certainty that oil does exist in Morocco," Mr. Tahiri told the media.

Tahiri noted however that there are promising signs that would enable Morocco to join the club of oil-producing countries. There are promising signs but it would be false to say today, at this very moment, that there is oil in Morocco, said the official choosing to remain prudent until official announcements are made on the matter.

He elaborated further that the hydrocarbons code adopted recently by the Moroccan parliament has attracted a number of oil companies that expressed interest to prospect for oil in Morocco. Morocco has granted prospecting licenses to the US oil company Lone Star Energy which will conduct drilling near southern city of Errachidia over a 6,000 km 2 area, in the provinces of Settat and Essaouira to the south of Casablanca and in the northern Atlantic maritime area. Morocco's oil consumption is assessed at nearly 6 million tons per year, according to Credit du Maroc Capital)

Oil exploration has a long history in Morocco. In mid eighties, oil exploration has picked up, the government at that time has promised to revise its oil industry investment code, and various reports pointed to activities by Exxon in the onshore Boudenib West concession; by Consolidated International Petroleum Company (former North-South Resources) in onshore Safi Block N, which it jointly holds with the Moroccan Office National de Recherches et d'Explorations Petroliere (Onarep); by Pennzoil and Onarep in the onshore Tendara block; by Onarep, three Swedish companies - Largus Exploration, Salen Energy and Salenia - and the Lichtenstein company Explo in the offshore Sidi Ifni block; and by Onarep and the Societe Cherifienne des Petroles (SCP) in the offshore Tarfaya-El-Ayoun block.

In 1987, the Japan National Oil Company (JNOC) was awarded a contract by Onarep at the end of March to carry out a two year program of seismic and geological studies in a 10 000 square Km offshore block between Safi and Ras rhir at a cost of $2.5 mn. This is the first Japanese involvement in oil exploration in Morocco.

As for Shell, it announced during 1987 it will decide whether or not to continue work on its Tarfaya oil shale project. This would involve the construction of a field retort for pilot oil production, but the project has been thrown into doubt as a result of the collapse in oil prices that time. Two years ago, Shell again and the U.K.-based Enterprise Oil were negotiating for exploration / production licenses for blocks offshore Morocco.

In 1997, The Moroccan Office for Oil Investment and Research (MOOIR) signed an agreement with a British company, through which the latter will carry out exploration works near the southern coast within offshore areas of 12,400 square kilometers. Sources in the MOOIR stated that the British company will carry out field research within the coming 12 months while it studies the articles of the agreement in order to carry out an extensive program for oil exploration on the southern coast of the Atlantic ocean. The sources added that negotiations with the British company are not the only ones with a foreign company, as the MOOIR is about to start negotiations with some other foreign companies for oil exploration in Morocco.

Besides, Morocco has an important reserve of oil rocks estimated at 6.5 million tons, located in Tamahdite and Tarfaya, but until now, Morocco is North Africa's sole net oil importer (145,000 bbl/d in 1998). With the country's hydrocarbon code amendment to reduce Morocco's share in oil discoveries from a maximum of 50% to 25%, one question remains: In the near future, will Morocco join the club of oil-producing countries? May be there will be a positive answer in the days to come.

Morocco Today Special Reports Desk Editor





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