'Significant' quantities of oil, gas off Moroccan coast

Preliminary indicators show that there may be large oil and gas reserves off the Moroccan coast.

al-monitor People look at the Atlantic Ocean from the Moroccan coast, July 14, 2010. Photo by REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson.

Topics covered

oil, natural gas, morocco, exploration, drilling

Mar 14, 2014

According to technical preliminary indicators, there are “significant” quantities of oil and gas off the coast of Morocco in the Atlantic Ocean, south of the city of Tarfaya.

For the first time in Morocco, oil discoveries off the Moroccan coast exceeded expectations. According to Genel Energy, the British-Turkish holding company that is drilling exploratory wells south of the Moroccan coast bordering the Spanish Canary Islands, layers of oil lie at a depth of 3,100 meters below sea surface. The company said it will continue to drill new wells, reaching a depth of 600 meters in order to confirm the size of the oil reserves.

The company has estimated the reserves of oil and gas located between Tan Tan and Tarfaya at about 900 million barrels of oil. However, the company refrained from disclosing additional information, pending further drilling operations initiated at the beginning of the year. It added that it will carry out further drilling to determine the nature and size of the potential reserves in the region, whose naval area is estimated at about 16,500 square kilometers. The company has explored about 2,000 square kilometers using geological three-dimensional vibration.

Genel Energy holds three exploration licenses in the south of Morocco, which it believes includes reserves of up to 4 billion barrels.

Many oil companies announced the discovery of oil and gas fields, whose size is estimated at 360 million barrels, following drilling carried out by Fasteners and Kosmos Energy.

According to the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, 10 exploration wells will be drilled in the coming months, which will determine the quantities of potential oil and gas in the “offshore” area.

Concerned authorities are not revealing the progress of the drilling operations so as to avoid a negative impact on the technical process, and to avoid rushing to the announcement of the actual reserves’ size, as happened 14 years ago in Talsint region, east of the country.

Back then, Rabat announced the discovery of important reserves, which later turned out to be insufficient to the extent that the project launched by the US-Moroccan Company Lone Star was suspended.

The London-based Irish company, Circle Oil, announced the discovery of “significant” gas reserves north of Rabat, stressing that it will continue to drill new wells for oil and gas in Morocco, and market the extractions within the local market.

Around 40 companies of different nationalities initiated drilling operations for oil and gas in Morocco, with some licenses extending to 25 years, allowing them to acquire 75% of the value of extractions, in return for investing part of the revenues in additional exploration operations and paying fees.

US companies, on the other hand, seek to convert oil shale into liquid energy in Timahdite in the Atlas Mountains, where there are sufficient water quantities necessary for this process. Meanwhile, environmental parties are against the use of such a technique, given its negative impact on the environment.

Last year, Morocco imported oil derivatives worth about $13 billion, mostly from the Gulf states, which constitutes about 20% of the country’s total imports.

The ongoing dependency on foreign energy resources is exacerbating the balance of trade deficit, and there has been a rise in the cost of the fuel compensation fund, which costs about an additional $3 billion every year.

Rabat is banking on the ongoing oil exploration, as well as relying on solar and wind energy — whose investment is estimated at about $10 billion — to produce half of its need of thermal power, and to reduce the energy bill by 2020.

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