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Senegal President Macky Sall this week welcomed Eni chief executive Claudio Descalzi in the capital Dakar, fuelling widespread speculation that the Italian major is set to obtain an upstream position in the country.
Eni’s entry into Senegal would track attempts by France’s Total to gain a foothold in the play — although its farm-in deal has yet to be finalised — and follow hard on the heels of aborted moves by US supermajor ExxonMobil to farm-in to acreage held by Kosmos Energy, pipped at the post by UK giant BP.
Descalzi praised government efforts to impose transparency in the extractive industries sector and emphasised his desire “to participate in the realisation of Senegal’s potential” against the backdrop of an attractive business environment.
While Senegal is Eni’s current focus, the company is also understood to be lobbying for access to acreage in neighbouring Gambia.
Meanwhile, the governments of both countries are trying to work out how best to defend their respective decisions to revoke title to prized acreage awarded to Oslo-registered African Petroleum Corporation Limited (APCL).
The controversial presence of APCL shareholder Frank Timis has deterred several suitors otherwise tempted to enter the Senegambian deep, but a series of recent developments may change this view.
Just days after top-flight Paris law firm Betto Seraglini was recruited to APCL’s cause, Sarella Investments, the equity vehicle controlled by Timis, sold off a major tranche of APCL stock, reducing its equity to a less threatening 10%.
Should APCL now withdraw its complaint before a Paris tribunal over Senegal’s reallocation of the Rufsique Offshore Deep (ROD) block to Total, the stigma may be lifted, permitting new suitors to farm in across the entire APCL portfolio. Senegal’s government may then recognise APCL’s title to the Senegal Offshore South Deep block off Casamance, granting an extension, while tempting Total to extend a degree of consideration to APCL for relinquishing operatorship of ROD.
Local reports suggested a compromise could involve APCL securing an extension at Casamance while retaining 5% of ROD, with state-owned Petrosen also on 5% and Total keeping 90%.
Gambia’s government is also prioritising resolution of arbitral proceedings initiated by APCL over revocation of title to blocks A1 and A4.