Madagascar Grants Total Licence Extension

Source: Reuters 7/28/2011, Location: Africa

Madagascar has given French oil major Total a one-year extension of an exploration licence and expanded it to include conventional oil as well as heavy oil, a senior official told Reuters on Thursday.

The license for Block 3102 covers the Bemolanga project in the Morondava basin on the western coast of the Indian Ocean island. Total has a 60 percent interest in the licence, with Madagascar Oil holding the other 40 percent.

"Total Exploration and Production has obtained a one-year extension of its Bemolanga exploration licence," Pascal Velonarivo, the director general of hydrocarbons within the ministry of oil and hydrocarbons, told Reuters.

He said the extension would also now allow Total to look for conventional oil. The previous licence had given the French major the right to look for heavy oil. Total said late last year that it was on target to produce heavy oil at Bemolanga by 2019. It said in May it wanted the extension to allow it to search for conventional oil.

Foreign investors are showing strong interest in untapped oil reserves in Madagascar, where one field alone holds estimated recoverable reserves of 2.5 billion barrels -- enough to put the country within reach of the top 30 oil producers. But exploration has been hampered since 2009 by a political crisis. In March, the Ministry of Mines suspended tenders for 225 offshore oil exploration blocks.

Madagascar comprises five basins totalling 320,000 square kilometres (123,550 miles). The most important are Ambilobe, Majunga and Morondava along the western coast. All three share a common geological history, and the structures are similar to those off Angola and Nigeria.


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