Sierra Leone suspends fourth oil exploration licensing round - REUTERS
BY Cooper Inveen
* Deadline for bids was Sept. 27
* Petroleum Directorate chief says timing of launch was wrong
By Cooper Inveen
FREETOWN, Sept 10 (Reuters) - Sierra Leone has suspended its fourth licensing round for hydrocarbon exploration, the head of its Petroleum Directorate told Reuters on Monday, citing poor timing of the round’s initial launch.
The round to licence five deep-water offshore blocks was officially launched at the end of January, but it was extended in June until Sept. 27.
Ahead of this deadline, the initiative has been suspended for up to another six months of consultation, the directorate said.
“It’s about timing, and the initial announcement was not the timeliest,” the directorate’s executive director, Timothy Kabba, told Reuters by telephone, explaining the decision.
“Now it’s been extended so companies can do the necessary budgeting this year to match next year activities. This is a decision we came to after getting feedback from around the industry,” he said.
The licensing concerns five areas covering 31,653 square km of deep and ultra-deep water off Sierra Leone’s coast.
Interest in West African oil and gas has surged over the last decade, with big discoveries in Senegal and Mauritania over the past few years. But Sierra Leone, even after a boom in exploration in 2012, has yet to see discoveries of either in commercial quantities.
The Petroleum Directorate’s director Raymond Kargbo, who was appointed by the previous government, was sacked in late July and replaced by Kabba.