Gabon extends block bidding process

Bidders for Gabon’s 12th licensing round have more time than scheduled. Launched in Cape Town last November, the round was initially set with a deadline in April 2019 for 12 shallow water blocks and 23 deep and ultra-deep water blocks offshore Gabon.

Industry feedback have led Gabon’s Directorate General of Hydrocarbons (DGH) to push the deadline back once again to September 30, 2019. Edgard Mbina-Kombila, general manager at DGH – while attending the rounds’ first roadshow in London – reassured investors this decision has nothing to do with the recent failed coup in Gabon: “Whatever you have heard, be sure that everything is back to normal,” he said.

Destinations for DGH’s bid promotion strategy include Singapore, Houston, Beijing, Malabo (during the APPO Cape VII Congress and Exhibition hosted by Africa Oil & Power), Moscow, Calgary and Rio de Janeiro next May. Executive Vice President of Geoscience at Spectrum, Neil Hodgson, said the bidding round is an opportunity ‘to milk the acreage with 21st century technology’ as multi-client seismic data will be provided to support assessment by companies.

Investors may be more worried about the new Petroleum Code, which has not yet been ratified, although it was scheduled at the end of 2018.

The government is now looking at two options: “Either we go through parliament or we go directly through a presidential decree,” said Herve-Bertrand Nnang-Engue, senior economist at DGH, pointing out parliamentary approval may not be required. Further explaining that the new code is designed to be more attractive while flexible and includes aspects regarding marginal discoveries, mature fields and oil prices fluctuations.

Regarding the bidding rounds, DGH’s Mbina-Kombila said: “Seismic data acquired when bidding for acreage in the round can be expensed as part of work commitments on blocks,” while explaining finalised criteria for the bidding process are not yet set in stone. Upon the round’s closing date, DGH estimate the evaluation will take up to a month, but gave no precise date as when the contracts will be awarded.

Gabon’s 12th bidding round features an intense use of technology and a strong promotional campaign as part of the government’s strategy aiming transform the petroleum industry – this will also include the upcoming petroleum code.