Petro-chance for Sierra Leone?


Sierra Leone is one of the poorest countries in Africa, and also in the world. In the 90s there has been a civil war, which broke out due to political disputes about deposits of natural resources: bauxite, titanium and especially diamonds. Today, when the political situation is normalized, the country is facing a great opportunity and also a challenge. Following years of conflict and the discovery of the field called Jubilee (Ghana), oil contractors have been quick to enter Sierra Leone to explore the country’s oil and gas potential. But probably only a few people have heard about “petro-side” of Sierra Leone.


In 1985, the first research was conducted and it was found that Sierra Leone has a hydrocarbon reservoir. Over the next two decades internal conflicts and lack of economic development blocked action in this regard. In 2011, the Environment Protection Agency of Sierra Leone in collaboration with the Petroleum Directorate Sierra Leone, published the Strategic Environmental Assessment of potential hydrocarbon development in the country.  The report highlighted that Sierra Leone stands to generate more than $100 million annually once oil production gets underway, a significant boost to domestic revenues.

Petroleum blocks

According to Fig. 1 there are 15 offshore blocks in the maritime zone of Sierra Leone. Petroleum blocks are awarded through open bid rounds (2003/2004/2012) and by negotiations thereafter. 9 blocks are awarded, 2 blocks are terminated, and 4 recently demarcated (shallow water/ onshore blocks). Currently, there are many companies operating in Sierra Leone:

  • Anadarko, Repsol and Tullow in block SL-7B
  • Lukoil, Oranto and Vanco in block SL-5-11
  • European Hydrocarbon in block SL-3
  • African Petroleum in block SL-4A
  • Chevron and Noble in blocks SL-8A and SL-8B
  • Minexco and Partner in block SL-7A

Bez tytułu

Fig. 1 Petroleum Blocks

African Petroleum hopes to be able to drill a prospect in one of the Sierra Leone blocks in 2014. The deepest well which currently exist is Jupiter-1. Its depth is 6400 m. The well drilled 30 m hydrocarbon derived from the Upper Cretaceous and did not encounter a hydrocarbon water contact.

Is it a real chance for a better life?

This is an important question for people living in Sierra Leone. A country where GDP per capita is only $1,344 (167 place in the world at 187) certainly will not become economic power overnight. Only a few people can count on finding a job in the industry. Hopefully infrastructure can be improved. If foreign companies and investors will be arrive into the country there is a chance to expansion and rehabilitation of the Lungi airport (in capital city Freetwon). But not only Sierra Leone is counting on profits, because hydrocarbon deposits are also in several countries of Western Africa. Similar projects are realizing in neighboring Liberia, Senegal, Gambia and Ivory Coast.

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About author

Radosław Budzowski

Logistics Manager in YoungPetro, third year student of Oil and Gas Engineering at the Faculty of Drilling, Oil and Gas at AGH. Interested in reservoir engineering and gas industry. Privately badminton and travels enthusiast.

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