Saturday, January 21, 2006

Lusa Confirms Sao Tome's 'Mid-February' JMC Meeting Request

Getting to the story a few days after a rival agency, the Portuguese news agency Lusa has joined the oil newsletter Platts in confirming that the island nation of Sao Tome and Principe has requested a "mid-February" meeting date for the next convocation of the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Ministerial Council that will decide the fate of Production Sharing Contracts for five choice oil blocks awarded last May 31.

A long strong of delays has disheartened investors and two major oil companies, Noble Energy in Block 4 and Devon Energy in Block 3, have pulled out of the process since awards were made.

Despite the insistence by many that the PSCs would be signed before Christmas, ERHC On The Move has suggested that closings on the PSC deals are more likely to occur in April. While there is no indication now why the mid-February meeting or the signings would be further delayed, the Joint Development Authority that oversees the process has been notoriously unreliable when it comes to maintaining schedules and deadlines.

Here is the Lusa story:

Abuja meeting to sign oil contracts delayed to February - minister

Sao Tome, Jan. 20 (Lusa) - Nigeria and Sao Tome and Principe have postponed a meeting to ink production sharing contracts for five offshore oil blocks in their Joint Development Zone until "mid- February", the archipelago`s petroleum minister has said.

In comments to Lusa Thursday, Deolindo da Costa said the meeting of the Joint Ministerial Council (JMC), due to take place the same day in Abuja, would be rescheduled to another date in the middle of next month.

The postponement was to give time for Sao Tome officials to "harmonize positions on items to be discussed", said da Costa.

Production sharing contracts in the five blocks of the second licensing round in the JDZ, awarded last May, were originally due to have been signed at the end of 2005.

The process was held up as an official investigation into the awards to international oil firms uncovered "serious flaws" in the process and possible irregular payments by an oil company to Sao Tome officials.

President Fradique de Menezes said earlier this month that awards of the blocks in question as they stood were "harmful" to Sao Tome's interests and the islands could lose USD 58 million.

Test drilling in a JDZ oil block awarded in Sao Tome's first licensing round to Exxon Mobil and ChevronTexaco got underway this week, industry sources said.



Editor's Note: Efforts to update this page with the preceding story at 2:20am EST were unsuccessful last night due to server issues.

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