Liberia - Oil & GasLiberia - Oil & Gas
Liberia does not have a well-developed upstream oil and gas industry. Hydrocarbon exploration activities in Liberian territorial waters started in the late 1960s, but those activities ceased due to a variety of factors. Liberia has a number of offshore oil blocks, some of which have been licensed to multinational oil companies. The blocks are from the continental shelf to water depths of 2,500-4,500 meters, and exploration activities require multimillion dollar investments. Expectations for significant offshore oil discoveries dwindled as a number of international oil companies such as Anadarko Petroleum, African Petroleum, Chevron, and Exxon which had signed production sharing contracts (PSCs) with the Liberian government shut down operations in Liberia. Presently there is no ongoing offshore exploratory drilling.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy regulates the oil and gas industry while the National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL) administers and controls the rights, title, and interest in oil and gas deposits and reserves in the Liberian territory. The government has embarked on reform of the oil and gas sector during the last several years taking a significant step towards ensuring transparency and accountability in the sector. The Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Law and the NOCAL Act of 2014--approved in 2016--repealed and replaced the previous “NOCAL Act of 2000” and the “Petroleum Law of 2002”, respectively. These two laws were developed with the World Bank’s assistance with input received from national and international consultations. The Petroleum Law separates the commercial and regulatory functions in the petroleum sector by creating two institutions: Liberia Petroleum Regulatory Authority (LPRA) and National Oil Company of Liberia (NOCAL). The newly established LPRA is responsible for granting three types of petroleum rights, including Reconnaissance Licenses, Petroleum Agreements, and Licenses for Petroleum Transportation Systems. The law also provides for the creation of a Ministry of Petroleum in the future should there be any commercial oil discoveries; this ministry would oversee all bid rounds. The new NOCAL Act restricts NOCAL to acting as a negotiator and requires competitive bidding for all petroleum contracts. Unlike the previous law (NOCAL Act of 2000), it sets standards for royalties and other fees in production sharing contracts and requires companies to declare true owners and beneficial ownership disclosure. Unlike other government agencies, NOCAL’s board members are subject to senate confirmation.
On the downstream side, all petroleum products are imported from neighboring countries because currently Liberia does not have a functioning refinery. According to the Central Bank, imported petroleum products--fuel, minerals, and lubricants--amounted to $212.3 million in 2016, representing 21 percent of total import payments. The Liberia Petroleum Refining Company (LPRC) is a state-owned enterprise with the exclusive mandate to refine, store, distribute, and supply petroleum products to the Liberian market. The LPRC owns storage tanks at its Product Storage Terminal (PST) near the Freeport of Monrovia where it stores and handles petroleum products for wholesale distribution. There is work in progress to modernize and expand the LPRC’s storage terminal. The project includes construction of bridges to accommodate trucks weighing up to two tons, a central control room, an additional operations building, and storage tanks for increased storage capacity. Should there be an upstream commercial oil discovery in the Liberian oil and gas sector, there would be significant opportunity for investment in the supply of goods and services to support further development of the petroleum industry.
There are prospects for the upstream and downstream petroleum products and services in the event of a commercial discovery. Storage tanks, tank farms, environmental and fire-fighting systems, petroleum testing laboratories, and potential refinery capacity development could provide build-operate-transfer opportunities. Transport and logistics services for oil rig personnel could provide some investment opportunities as well.
Potential investment opportunities exist for U.S. companies in the downstream petroleum sector in areas of refining, importation, offloading, and facility handling. Potential investment tenders for new ultra-deep off-shore blocks or resale of existing blocks may materialize. As the LPRC begins to decentralize its operations and expand petroleum supplies on the domestic market, new marketing opportunities may arise in other parts of the country. The LPRC has a long-term plan to resume refining operations in the future, and this would require significant investment in plant, machinery, and equipment for refining and laboratory testing. Furthermore, as the demand for petroleum products increases, a private sector operator could be introduced to invest capital for upgrades and rehabilitation in return for operation rights, on a public-private partnership (PPP) arrangement.
Liberia Oil and Gas Trade Development and Promotion