CAPE TOWN, Oct 9 (Reuters) - Senegal has delayed the launch of an oil and gas licensing round due on Wednesday until Nov. 4 as contract documents still need to be finalised, oil minister Mahamadou Makhtar Cisse said.
“We need to ensure the legal framework for investors,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of an oil and power conference in Cape Town.
Senegal’s ambitions to become a major oil and gas producer have been overshadowed by allegations President Macky Sall’s brother was involved in fraud related to two offshore gas blocks being developed by BP.
Asked whether the scandal had dented investor appetite, Cisse told Reuters “We have not measured a negative impact.”
Prosecutors in Senegal launched an inquiry in June, and the president’s brother Aliou Sall resigned from his government post following the allegations reported by the BBC.
Senegal, where oil was discovered in 1961, expects all its offshore projects to come online between 2022 and 2026, the minister said.
According to the International Monetary Fund, between 2014 and 2017, oil and gas reserves worth more than 1 billion barrels of oil and 40 trillion cubic feet of gas, most of it shared with Mauritania, were found.
“Discoveries are important but will not lead to a major transformation of the economy, with hydrocarbons expected to make up not more than 5 percent of GDP,” the IMF said in a January country report.
Two large fields in Senegal are currently being developed - Australia’s Woodside Energy is developing the SNE field and BP the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim project.
Woodside’s general manager for Senegal reiterated that the company expected to take a final investment decision (FID) on phase one of the SNE field by December.
“We are intending to secure an FID by the end of the year and we propose to commercialise the first oil in 2022,” he said of a project requiring estimated capital expenditure of around $3 billion.
Geraud Moussarie, BP’s Senegal country manager, said their Mauritania-Senegal offshore discovery, which has already reached FID, “has a good place in our portfolio because we see it as a new basin, unexplored, with tremendous potential.”
The new licensing round will be open for six months and will seek developers for ten to twelve offshore fields, Mamadou Faye, managing director of national oil company Petrosen told Reuters.
He said some of the new oil production would be sold and refined locally by Societe Africaine de Raffinage (SAR), Senegal’s refinery.
“This refinery will be upgraded to process up to 1.6 million tonnes of oil a year from around 1.2 million tonnes now,” he said - a project expected to cost $70 million.
SAR eventually plans to reach a capacity of 2.5 to 3 million tonnes a year, another official said.
Faye said the state was also considering building a second, larger refinery capable of refining complex crudes at a cost of billions of dollars.
“The plan is to have the second refinery operational in 15 years, so around 2035,” he said.
The IMF forecasts growth of around 6.9 percent in 2019 for Senegal, rising to 11.6 percent in 2022 when first oil is expected to flow.
Kosmos Energy, a U.S.-listed oil and gas exploration company, said last month the results of its appraisal drilling offshore Senegal were good enough to consider a second liquefied natural gas (LNG) export plant in the country. (Reporting by Helen Reid and Wendell Roelf, editing by Louise Heavens and David Evans and Kirsten Donovan)