Democratic Republic of Congo plans to launch a licensing round this year for more than 20 onshore oil and gas blocks, the oil ministry said April 5. The round will be its first since adopting a new hydrocarbons code in 2015.
Congo, Africa’s leading copper miner, has pumped just 25,000 barrels of oil per day for years despite sitting on up to 5 billion barrels of reserves.
The hydrocarbons code was meant to revive the haphazardly regulated sector by imposing new transparency, such as requiring public tenders for exploration and exploitation permits.
Emmanuel Kayumba Banza-Mwana, a senior official in the oil ministry, told Reuters the government would open bids on blocks in the coastal basin along the Atlantic, the inland Cuvette Centrale and around Lake Tanganyika in the southeast.
The licensing round would still have to wait until President Felix Tshisekedi, who took office in January, names a new government in the coming months, he said, speaking by telephone.
Anglo-French oil and gas company Perenco is Congo’s only active producer. France’s Total also holds an exploration permit near the eastern border with Uganda.
Government efforts to ramp up oil exploration have met resistance from environmentalists, who have objected to exploration inside protected national parks.
In December, former President Joseph Kabila awarded an oil drilling license that overlaps with a wildlife-rich UNESCO world heritage site and forms part of the world's second largest rainforest.
Egypt expects investments of at least $750 million to $800 million in the first stage of exploration in the 12 concessions, Petroleum Minister Tarek El Molla said during a press conference.
Origin Energy said in a statement that it would remain responsible for the development of Ironbark, which is an onshore coal seam gas development in Australia.
The attempted divestment is the latest to emerge from the U.S. GoM as higher oil prices allow those with capital-intensive investments in the basin to sell them at much more attractive valuations than in recent years.