- Title: LIBERIA: Oil hopes run deep in troubled Liberia
- Date: 4th January 2012
- Summary: BEIJING, CHINA (FILE) (ORIGINALLY 4:3) (REUTERS) VARIOUS OF LIBERIAN PRESIDENT ELLEN JOHNSON SIRLEAF SHAKING HANDS WITH CHINA'S PRESIDENT HU JINTAO
- Embargoed: 19th January 2012 12:00
- Location: Liberia, Liberia
- Country: Liberia
- Topics: Industry,Energy
- Reuters ID: LVAE2XXDYLK0FFQAVUYAP29APCT6
- Story Text: On the third floor of a mold-blackened building in central Monrovia, the head of Liberia's state oil company pores over the maps of offshore waters and imagines the deep pockets of crude oil he feels certain are there.
For a nation still suffering the after-effects of one of Africa's most brutal wars, the reservoirs hidden beneath the Atlantic waves could spell salvation.
"Like I said previously, the geology is fascinating and all of the output and the results that we have is yes, there's a presence of hydrocarbon and we just need to discover where the reservoir is," said Christopher Neyor, the head of the state-run National Oil Company.
While miners targeted Liberia's iron ore deposits, U.S. oil explorer Anadarko drilled off the coast, and some of the world's top oil firms are lining up for additional offshore acreage.
Neyor said the country had five near-shore blocks and 17 ultra-deep water blocks remaining unawarded - all of which could be put up for bidding this year.
Neyor said U.S. giant Exxon Mobil, France's Total and Brazil's Petrobras had approached Liberia for exploration rights. China's CNOOC was negotiating terms of two near-shore blocks awarded in a bidding process, he added.
The West African state held its second presidential election since a 1989-2003 civil war in November last year, putting it on the cusp of potentially profound change, with hopes that peace will pave the way for investment in resources sealed off by the years of bloodshed.
Neyor said an oil find was possible "pretty soon."
But the resource curse that has plagued other African countries like Nigeria in its oil rich Delta and Congo in its minerals- rich east, has Liberians worried that without proper transparent management of the new finds, the country could return to instability.
"People will be self-centred, they will want to eat it all for themselves, they and their families and this oil is for we the Liberian people. I think it will be preferable that they will share it equally so it will affect the lives of all Liberians," said Exodus Sawyer, a student.
"The first thing we need to do is to put the mechanism into place that the oil that will come out will be beneficial to every one of us," said Rev Marvinsohn, a generator technician.
Neyor said he was reviewing Liberia's petroleum laws to ensure any future oil finds benefit ordinary Liberians, desperate for jobs and infrastructure.
"So we are all geared towards ensuring that we will work together to come up with the framework to manage our oil revenue," Neyor said.
He said the National Oil Company was finalizing proposals on local content, royalties and state share in projects and would incorporate industry feedback before presenting the proposals to the cabinet.
He said some of the other proposals could be modelled on Norway's system of depositing a share of oil revenues into a sovereign fund, though he added that a priority would be to "ring-fence some revenues for infrastructure, roads, bridges, power plants, schools and hospitals."
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