LUKOIL has kicked off its exploration drilling campaign 50 miles offshore Sierra Leone. Making a short statement at the launching ceremony, President Dr Ernest Bai Koroma said he has been left with the impression that within sixty to eighty days, LUKOIL’s scientists working at the rig would be in a better position to tell government if they strike oil, whether it will be in commercially viable quantities. He made this statement soon after he returned from a conducted tour of LUKOIL’s Eirik Raude drilling rig at Block 5-SL-11, 50 nautical miles off-shore Sierra Leone.
In a pre-rig tour briefing at the Conference Room of the Presidential Lounge of the Lungi International Airport, the President said this is the first time in a long while Sierra Leone has received a high ranking delegation from the Russian Federation.
He said government had excellent relations with the Russian Federation over the years, and supported each other at bilateral and multilateral levels. He added that his administration is looking forward to strengthen not only diplomatic ties, but also economic relations aimed at benefiting the peoples of both countries.
“We look for greater engagement with the Russian Government”, said President Koroma, and assured the delegation of Sierra Leone’s continued support, as the company (LUKOIL) has vast experience in oil exploration which, if successful, is set to transform Sierra Leone into an oil producing country.
Andrey R. Kuzyaev, President of LUKOIL Overseas Holding Ltd. said his company has been in long negotiations with government and when talks reached agreement, they went straight into operation on Block 5-SL-11.
He noted that they have interpreted 3D Seismic studies conducted on the site, founded prospects and have installed drilling platforms above the various prospects which is 130 square kilometres, and hoped that if it’s a discovery, then it will be large, saying his company has invested so much in the operations.
Mr. Kuzyaev described President Koroma’s visit to the Eirik Raude drilling rig as a significant stride towards the entire implementation of the project, adding that the exploration is a very large oil base that hasn’t been discovered before, therefore prayed that the discovery will now be globally known.
LUKOIL’s president maintained that results from the well will be made known by the end of 2013 so that they will start assessing the nature and scope of the project, adding that they do realize energy is significant to the economic development of Sierra Leone.
Mr Guennadi Mikhailovich Gatilov, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, who co-led the delegation, said they had fruitful discussions with President Koroma and the government of Sierra Leone and reached a conclusion that, ties between both countries be strengthened, through trade, educational, cultural and economic relations, and that oil mining will contribute largely to the economic development of the country.
The minister profusely thanked President Koroma for the warm reception he accorded the delegation, and conveyed warm regards from the Russian leadership, saying that base on the present level of bilateral cooperation between both countries there are prospects for further consolidation of ties.
He disclosed that both governments have agreed to promote bilateral relations and economic development, as President Koroma’s visit to the rig demonstrates relentless commitment to strengthen stronger relations with hopes that the operation becomes successful.
On the educational front, he recalled that there were very many Sierra Leonean students studying in Russian universities during the Soviet Union era, but now there are very few in Moscow. He therefore promised to further collaborate with the Ministry of Education, Science and Technology so that the Russian Federation can be sending in more scholarships for study in various fields, as they are ready to propose more grants.
Raymond Kargbo, Director General of the Petroleum Directorate said the prospect looks good, but suggested that more should be done in educating the public in terms of understanding that “investing in investment” does not happen without challenges. The Mines and Mineral Resources Minister, Alhaji Minkailu Mansaray said the prospects are very hopeful as there are indicators that they will definitely reach the level where both sides will get oil from Sierra Leone this time round.
By and large, LUKOIL is in the country to continue with investigations into whether there is oil in Block 5-SL-11 or not.