November 5, 2019 / 10:44 AM / 14 days ago

UPDATE 1-Senegal announces launch of oil and gas licensing round

(Adds detail, quotes and background)

CAPE TOWN, Nov 5 (Reuters) - Senegal on Tuesday announced a new oil and gas licensing round for three offshore blocks as the country prepares to tap rich reserves in a bid to boost revenues.

Senegal’s offshore oil and gas reserves have the potential to transform the poor West African country when they start flowing in the next decade, with volumes expected to rival some of the region’s biggest producers.

“We are launching today for the first time in the history of petroleum exploration in Senegal a licensing round of three blocks of sediment basin,” oil minister Mahamadou Makhtar Cisse said at an oil and power conference in Cape Town.

The legal phase of the licensing round will conclude in late January he added, with a legal framework to be presented at international conferences in Houston, London and Dakar.

A second phase, which will begin in February and end on July 31, will enable petroleum companies to evaluate the potential of the blocs.

Senegal, where oil was discovered in 1961, expects all its offshore projects to come online between 2022 and 2026.

According to the International Monetary Fund, between 2014 and 2017, oil and gas reserves worth more than 1 billion barrels of oil and 40 trillion cubic feet of gas, most of it shared with Mauritania, were found.

Claims that President Macky Sall’s brother was involved in fraud related to two offshore gas blocks being developed by BP have cast a shadow over Senegal’s oil and gas plans.

Aliou Sall, who denied the allegations, resigned from his government post in June after prosecutors launched an inquiry into the claims reported by the BBC. (Reporting by Noah Browning, Writing by Tanisha Heiberg Editing by Louise Heavens and Kirsten Donovan)

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