Liberia's Oil and Gas History
The Formation of NOCAL
The National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) was established in April 2000, by Liberia’s National Legislature for the purpose “….of holding all of the rights, titles and interests of the Republic of Liberia in the deposits and reserves of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons within the territorial limits of the Republic of Liberia, whether potential, proven, or actual, with the aim of facilitating the development of the oil and gas industry in the Republic of Liberia.”
About the Liberia Basin
The Liberia Basin was formed over 600.000 years ago when the earth’s plates shifted. What is now known as the African Continent was connected to the land mass now known as South America. The earth’s crust shifted and the two plates were violently separated. As they parted, a large valley formed between them. This valley eventually became the Atlantic Ocean.
Rivers from the African interior – the St. Paul, Cestos, Cavalla and Lofa - flowed to the Liberian coast and into the ocean from the African interior. The force of the water carved trenches or gullies in the ocean bed and dumped sediments including organic matter – the remains of ancient plants and animals –into these trenches along with heavy sands and soils. Over time, the sediment piled up, pressure and heat increased, and under the right conditions became hydrocarbons or petroleum.
Is there petroleum hidden in the bottom of the Liberia basin? Hydrocarbon exploration has been active in the Liberia basin since the 1940s. Early exploration was focused on the shelf, and though the conditions seemed right – oil shows, good quality sandstones and potential source rock – the shelf wells did not encounter commercial quantities of oil.
Exploration ceased in Liberian waters due to a variety of factors, including political instability. Then, in 2001, a regional 2D survey indicated the potential of oil-bearing structures in deep water areas of up to 3000m deep.
In 2000, during one of the intermittent periods of Liberia’s civil wars, TGS-NOPEC Geophysical Company, under the auspices of the newly formed National Oil Company (NOCAL), began the acquisition of 2D seismic data on Liberia’s offshore. With the installation of a transitional government in October of 2003, NOCAL proceeded with a planned licensing round and invited international petroleum exploration companies to apply for permits to explore one of the few remaining frontier areas offshore west Africa. Modeled after the very successful Sierra Leone licensing round, NOCAL’s licensing concluded in August 2003 with the awarding of four Liberian offshore blocks to three separate companies.