Soco, Inpex Drill First Congo Exploration Land Well in 30 Years

By Eduard Gismatullin
(c) 2010 Bloomberg News
Thursday, July 15, 2010; 12:00 AM

Soco sold a 20 percent stake to Inpex, Japan's biggest energy explorer, in the Nganzi block in western DR Congo, the London-based company said today in a statement. The partners started drilling today and are targeting about 600 million barrels of estimated oil resources, said Chief Financial Officer Roger Cagle.

"Until about two years ago, they were in conflict in the DRC, that certainly had something to do" with absence of onshore development, Cagle said today in a phone interview.

The country is recovering from almost a decade of war that officially ended in 2003 and claimed the lives of millions. More than 20,000 civilians fled fighting this month between the national army and rebels, the Allied Democratic Forces-National Army for the Liberation of Uganda, in Congo's North Kivu province, according to the United Nations.

The Nganzi partners, including state-owned La Congolaise des Hydrocarbures, may link the field with a 60-kilometer (37- mile) pipeline to an offshore export terminal run by Chevron Corp., Perenco SA and Inpex, Cagle said. "We need to find oil first," he said.

DR Congo on June 18 issued a presidential decree awarding Soco and Dominion Petroleum Ltd. block 5 along Lake Edward in the eastern part of the country. It also made awards to SacOil Holding Ltd. of South Africa, and to two companies owned by South African President Jacob Zuma's nephew, Khulubuse Zuma, which were held by Tullow Oil Plc and Heritage Oil Plc.

© 2010