Course au pétrole au Darfour/Oil rush in Darfur

Voici une carte obtenue du Ministère de l’énergie et des mines du Soudan:

Sudan oil concessions in 2006/ Concessions pétrolières du Soudan en 2006

Elle date de mars 2006, et inclut d’énormes blocs d’exploration dans le Nord-Ouest du pays. Les blocs 12 et 14. Les blocs 12 nous intéressent particulièrement car ils sont situés dans le Nord du Darfur.

Voici une carte du Darfour: Darfour

La zone couverte par le bloc 12 représente près du tiers de la superficie du Darfour. Nous avons supposé, en voyant cette carte, que le gouvernement soudanais, malgré les événements tragiques qui se produisent au Darfour, a cherché à attribuer ce bloc d’exploration à des entreprises étrangères mais sans avoir la certitude sur l’identité du partenaire qui décrocherait l’exclusivité. En effet, la carte étiquette le bloc 12 avec le terme “Under processing”, contrairement aux autres blocs où les entreprises qui les détiennent sont identifiées. Or, il semble que des entreprises aurait été prêtes à plonger au Darfur comme l’indique l’Africa Intelligence du 14 mars 2007:

Sans attendre, comme leurs homologues occidentaux, la fin du conflit au Darfour, les groupes arabes, indiens, ainsi que les pétroliers d’Europe centrale affluent au Soudan pour prendre les derniers blocs disponibles au nord du pays.

Mais cela ne nous a pas convaincu puisqu’il aurait pu s’agir du Bloc 14 ou même d’un bloc 13 situé au Nord-Est du pays (invisible sur la carte [désolé, nous avons du la tronquer]).

Or, coup de théâtre, l’Africa Intelligence du 28 mars 2007 nous arrive avec cette nouvelle:

Issu du découpage du gigantesque bloc 12 en deux permis distincts, le bloc 12A, qui s’étend du Darfour Nord à la frontière libyenne, a été confié l’an dernier à un consortium de firmes arabes composé du yéménite Ansan Wikfs (20%), de la firme saoudienne Al Qahtani Sons Group of Companies (33%) et de Dindir Petroleum (15%), filiale de l’Edgo Group jordanien de la famille palestinienne Masri .

Ce serait donc le consortium arabe qui aurait doublé les indiens et les européens de l’est!

On peut remarquer qu’il existe aussi un Bloc C qui empiète aussi sur le Darfur. Il est exploré par APCO Clivenden, une entreprise dont le partenaire suisse, Clivenden, a 37% des parts.

Ailleurs au Soudan on peut remarquer la présence du français Total (Bloc B), britannique Marathon (Bloc B), malaisien Petronas, CNPC (China National Petroleum Corp.), Thani de Dubai. On voit que le Soudan a beaucoup d’amis…

Le Los Angeles Time a aussi la nouvelle et fournit cette carte:

Darfur oilThe first map above, is a map we got from the Sudanese Ministry of Mines and Energy. It dates from March 2006 and includes two exploration blocs: 12 and 14. The blocs 12 are in Northern Darfur and they cover almost a third of the province (compare with second map). They are identified as “Under processing”. So we thought Sudan was trying to give them to partners but without knowing which one would get the exploration rights. Africa Intelligence released an information on March 14th 2007, saying that, with most occidental country out of the race (i.e. Darfur conflict issue), a competition between arab, indian and east european partners was taking place. By March 28th, Africa Intelligence revealed the winner: an arab consortium made of the Yemeni Ansan Wikfs (20%), the Saudi Al Qahtani Sons Group of Companies (33%) and the Dindir Petroleum (15%), subsidiary of the Jordanian Edgo Group (Palestinian Masri family).

You may have noticed that another Bloc, Bloc C, also covers part of Darfur. The Company “APCO Clivenden” is one of the partners, and Clivenden is the Swiss owner of this company at 37%:

“Sudan announced in April [2005] that its ABCO [sic: APCO] corporation, which is 37 percent owned by Swiss company Clivenden, had begun drilling for oil in Darfur, where preliminary studies showed there were “abundant” quantities of oil.”

You also may have noticed the presence, elsewhere in Sudan, of the French Total (Bloc B), British Marathon (Bloc B), Malaysian Petronas, CNPC (China National Petroleum Corp.), Dubai’s Thani. Sudan has a lot of friends…

The Los Angeles Time also has the story related to the blocs 12, and we copy it in full here:

The Sudanese government is quietly escalating oil exploration inside the Darfur region, a step that has led to protests from rebel leaders in a volatile area where more than 200,000 people have been killed during three years of fighting.

Political and humanitarian experts say oil in Darfur could deliver much-needed development and investment to the region but that attempts to search for oil now may intensify the conflict by raising the stakes in an already war-torn area. The government has recently awarded three new oil concessions in the region.

Rebel leaders say oil exploration in Darfur should be postponed until a peace deal is signed by all parties and stability returns.

“We are still fighting for our lives and our country,” said rebel commander Jar Neby, who represents a faction of the Sudan Liberation Army. “We need water right now, not oil. We can talk about these issues after peace comes.”

Some political analysts believe that untapped oil reserves might have been an underlying factor in the Darfur conflict all along, explaining why a seemingly barren wasteland of western Sudan would spark such a bitter tug of war between government forces and rebels, eventually drawing the intervention of international players such as the United States, Libya and the United Nations.

“When you don’t find a reasonable explanation, this is what you have to conclude,” said Eltayeb Hag Ateya, head of the Peace Studies Institute at Khartoum University. “I believe there must be something else — oil or some natural resource — about Darfur.”

Salih Osman, a human rights attorney from Darfur, said government suspicions about oil in Darfur explain why regime officials reacted so strongly to rebel attacks in the region, starting in 2003. “I fear this will only make matters worse,” he said, referring to the newly expanded exploration.

The government is accused of arming Arab militias known as janjaweed to attack and destroy scores of Darfur villages over the last three years. Government officials deny supporting the janjaweed and blame rebels for the violence.

A team of Middle Eastern oil companies, including Saudi Arabia-based Al Qahtani Sons Group and Ansan Wikfs, based in Yemen, agreed in November to spend $43 million for drilling rights to a 125,000-square-mile territory. The largely uninhabited area, known as Block 12a, is north of where much of Darfur’s fighting is occurring.

The government’s decision to offer new concessions in Darfur is part of an aggressive search for oil in the northern part of the country.

Since discovering oil in the 1970s, Sudan has become one of Africa’s biggest producers. But most of the current production — worth an estimated $6 billion a year — is in the south, and a 2005 peace agreement with former southern rebels gives Sudanese there the right to break away from the rest of the country in 2011, taking much of the oil with them.

“There’s a real scramble to find oil in the north,” said a government oil official, who, like several others interviewed for this report, requested that his name be withheld because of the government’s sensitivity about speaking publicly. “The likelihood that there is oil in Darfur is quite high.”

The government awarded two smaller concessions east of Nyala, the capital of South Darfur state, to a Yemen-led joint venture. But attempts to find an investor for a concession encompassing much of the rest of North Darfur state have been complicated by the region’s instability, officials said.

Due in part to U.S. investment sanctions imposed on Sudan in the 1990s, China National Petroleum Corp. is Sudan’s biggest oil partner and purchases two-thirds of its oil. One of China’s oil-producing concessions straddles Darfur, but officials said current production is occurring in the state of Southern Kordofan, not in Darfur itself. Officials at China National declined to comment.

An oil industry consultant who works with several of Sudan’s major oil companies, and who also spoke on condition of anonymity, said he believed that efforts to look for oil in Darfur are aggravating the conflict.

“The main reason behind Darfur is oil,” he said. “This fighting in Darfur had been going on for generations. There is no other reason for this area to have blown like this.”

Others are hopeful that oil might help resolve the region’s crisis by bringing all sides together. The discovery of oil in southern Sudan eventually helped end the two-decade civil war when both sides realized that neither would be able to profit from the oil if fighting continued.

“They will see that it’s better to share in the oil than to leave it for someone else,” said Salah Wahbi, president of Advanced Petroleum Co., a Sudanese joint venture that has invested more than $30 million to explore in a southern Darfur oil concession. “Oil will bring a better life and will bring a better agreement.”

Under a fragile peace accord signed by the government and one rebel group in May, Darfurians have the right to share in whatever oil wealth is discovered.

The increased exploration has not gone unnoticed by Darfur rebels. In late November, two rebel groups attacked a Chinese oil facility in Abu Gabra, located between the states of South Darfur and Southern Kordofan, according to a United Nations report. Both rebels and government troops claimed victory in the clash.

U.S. officials have downplayed speculation about oil in Darfur. Andrew S. Natsios, the Bush administration’s special envoy for Darfur, dismissed criticism by some Sudanese that the U.S. interests in Darfur might be linked to oil.

“We’re unaware of any significant amount of oil in Darfur,” Natsios told reporters recently. “It’s a small amount down in the southeast corner.”

Oil companies, however, have been expanding their exploration, despite security concerns that make drilling in Darfur dangerous. Wahbi, whose joint venture was the first to drill inside Darfur, said some parts of his territory, known as Block C, remain a no-go zone because of the fighting. The company recently got a government extension to conduct exploratory drilling because it has been unable to enter some areas.

“Our workers are foreign contractors, and we don’t want to put them at risk,” Wahbi said.

Before drilling, his company meets with tribal leaders to explain its work, he said. To appease concerns, the company has built six water wells for communities affected by the drilling and treated hundreds in the company’s mobile health clinic.

The company started drilling in late 2004 and accelerated it in 2005 and 2006. So far, workers have hit only dry wells, but three wells recently showed evidence of oil in the past. Company engineers are now chasing the suspected path of the crude.

“Every day we are getting more information,” Wahbi said. “We are getting closer.” He noted that his concession is adjacent to some of Sudan’s top-producing oil regions, controlled by China National and others.

Advanced Petroleum is unique among Sudan’s oil ventures because it is the only concession that is owned entirely by Sudanese investors, including private companies and the state government in Khartoum. Previously, the joint venture included Swiss-based Cliveden Group, but the company sold its stake a year ago because of U.S. pressure over Darfur, Wahbi said.