RABAT- Morocco plans to double the number of oil and gas exploration wells drilled next year to 20, the energy minister said Friday, as foreign interest grows in the kingdom's potential energy reserves.
RABAT- Morocco plans to double the number of oil and gas exploration wells drilled next year to 20, the energy minister said Friday, as foreign interest grows in the kingdom’s potential energy reserves.
The North African country, which currently imports virtually all its oil and gas needs and is under pressure to reduce its unaffordable energy bills, is determined to exploit this interest.
New arrivals to the Moroccan upstream this year include two major oil companies, namely BP and Chevron, which both acquired offshore acreage in the Agadir basin.
“We have not made any sensational discoveries yet … But we are in a situation where the exploration landscape is changing,” Energy Minister Abdelkader Amara told AFP.
“When you look at the exploration curve in Morocco, we are on an upward trajectory … In 2013 we’re looking at about 10 wells, and in 2014 there should be around 20,” he said.
The minister said Morocco has some 900,000 square kilometres (350,000 sq miles) of sedimentary basins, both terrestrial and offshore, and has on average drilled only 0.04 wells per 100 square kilometres to date, compared with the international average of “around 10.”
In addition to BP and Chevron, international companies involved in exploration activity in Morocco include France’s Total and Spanish firm Respol.
Other smaller oil firms present in the exploration frontier country include Britain’s Cairn Energy, Genel Energy headed by former BP chief Tony Hayward, and Kosmos Energy, which found the Jubilee oil field off Ghana.
“A certain number of areas where there was no interest are starting to attract interest,” the Moroccan minister said, while urging “caution” about reports in the local media of a significant gas discovery in the Essaouira region.
As part of efforts to harness its renewable energy potential, Morocco launched the construction of a 160-megawatt solar power plant in May, near the desert city of Ouarzazate, after the contract was won by a Saudi-led consortium.
Amara said that a call for offers for the second of the two-phase project would be launched “in the coming weeks,” with seven companies having pre-qualified out of around 10.
The entire project, once completed, is expected to cover 3,000 hectares (7,400 acres) and have a generation capacity of 500 megawatts, enough to met the electricity needs of Ouarzazate’s 1.5 million residents.