DRC: Eni, TotalEnergies, Exxon… Who’s ready to fight for Congolese oil?

By Maher Hajbi
Posted on Tuesday, 2 August 2022 11:10

Perenco's offshore oil platform off Muanda, at the southwestern tip of the DRC, in October 2021. ALEXIS HUGUET/AFP

Largely dependent on the mining sector, DRC has officially launched calls for tender for 30 oil and gas blocks (rather than 16), including two belonging to Israeli tycoon Dan Gertler. This is enough to whet the appetite of the giants.

“We should no longer be content to celebrate the natural resource potential of our country indefinitely. It is up to us to exploit it. DRC’s President Félix Tshisekedi launched on Thursday 28 July, calls for tenders for three gas blocks and 27 oil blocks, two of which were returned last February by Ventora Development, one of the companies of the Israeli businessman Dan Gertler.

Spread over the country’s main sedimentary basins, the Coastal Basin, the Central Basin and the basins of the western branch of the East African Rift, these resources are estimated at some 22 billion barrels of crude oil and 66 billion cubic meters (nm³) of gas.

Aiming for the top

For DRC’s Minister of Hydrocarbons, Didier Budimbu, it is “unacceptable that such a lucrative sector, capable of playing a preponderant role in the country’s economy, is only exploited at a low rate of 4.5% of its potential.”

The authorities now intend to break their dependence on the mining sector, which accounts for about 95% of exports, and to bring DRC up to the level of major oil producers. While hydrocarbons currently contribute only 6% of the national budget, the future exploitation of its various deposits through production sharing contracts should contribute to raising the sector’s share of government revenues to 40%, according to government estimates.

The bidding process will be spread over a period of six months for the allocation of oil blocks, and three months for the gas blocks in Lake Kivu. Meanwhile,  authorities – hostile to the idea of dealing with intermediaries – are planning to travel to the United States, the United Arab Emirates and Switzerland to promote the wealth of these blocks and encourage investors to exploit them.

Heavyweight battle

In an interview with the British newspaper Financial Times on 19 July, Budimbu said that “TotalEnergies, ExxonMobil and Eni are among the oil companies that have expressed an interest in acquiring the blocks up for auction. For its part, the Italian major confided to us that it did not wish to participate in this operation which “is not part of its current priorities”.

Active in 14 African countries, Eni – boosted by the increase in global demand and the recovery of prices – has achieved solid performance in the second quarter of 2022: its adjusted net income has increased more than fourfold, compared to the same period in 2021, to $3.89bn.

Its French rival TotalEnergies, meanwhile, earned $5.7bn in profits during the same period.

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