Friday, October 12, 2012
By Barkhad Dahir
International oil companies will begin taking aerial photos of Somaliland to look for oil deposits. Above, an archaeologist at Laas Geel, Somaliland. [Tony Karumba/AFP]
Genel Energy and other international firms are moving ahead with plans to explore for oil in Somaliland, a development that officials hope will lead to prosperity and job creation in the region.
In early December, Genel Energy will start taking aerial pictures of Somaliland's Togdheer region to look for oil deposits, according to Somaliland's Minister of Mining, Energy and Water Resources Hussein Abdi Duale.
"The aerial search will be followed by oil exploration work, which will start in the beginning of 2013," Duale said October 3rd as he welcomed a delegation from Genel Energy, which is headquartered in Turkey.
The company will use seismic vibrators to explore for oil and will then drill wells, he said. "This will be the first time oil is drilled in the country in 20 years."
Duale said Genel Energy reached a working arrangement with Britain-based oil company Asante Oil, which had an initial agreement with the ministry to search for oil.
"Genel Energy's role in this work will be 70%, and we are happy they will start this work in Somaliland ... We hope that oil will be discovered in our country so we can prosper," he said.
The delegation visited Burao, capital of the Togdheer region, on October 4th to assess the security situation for Genel Energy's future office there.
Australia-based oil company Jacka Resources, Ltd. will also work with Petrosoma, Ltd., based in the United Kingdom, to begin aerial exploration at the end of October and will photograph 10,000 square miles, said Petrosoma's information officer in Hargeisa Mohamed Elmi Abdalle.
Abdalle told Sabahi they will transition to ground exploration in January, with the initial phase of the project costing $10 million.
Said Mohamed Elmi, chairman of the parliamentary sub-committee on environment and natural resources, told Sabahi that a bill on Somaliland oil exploration will be presented to parliament in December.
The Ministry of Mining, Energy and Water Resources has reached agreements in the past few years with four other foreign companies that work in the mineral and oil sectors, Elmi told Sabahi, adding that the constitution requires parliament to approve these kinds of projects, but the ministry has neither forwarded nor approved them.
"If the law governing oil has not yet been created, it is not appropriate to cut deals with companies that prospect, explore or drill... Before parliament approves them, these agreements are illegal," he said. "The ministry has been stubborn in submitting those agreements."
Opportunities for job creation
Abdirahman Aden Aar, an economics professor at Hargeisa's Civil Service Institute, said he hopes oil production will help reduce Somaliland's unemployment rate.
"It will enhance the country's economy and will create jobs for unemployed youth," he said. "This will in turn enhance the living conditions of society."
"Not many people are educated in oil matters in the country now, so production will result in bringing in foreign experts from whom the few local skilled workers will be able to learn from," Aar told Sabahi.
About 1,700 young people recently graduated from national and private universities and are now looking for work, Aar said. "There is an imbalance each year in the number of work opportunities and those seeking work," he said. "So [oil exploration] can be an opportunity for job creation."