By Prof. Abdi Salah Hussein
This research is intended primarily to provide an updated overview of the knowledge gained on the ground in Somalia over fifty years of investigation by a number of foreign oil companies, and to investigate the specific issue of oil and gas geology of Somalia.
The documentary material and collected in a large part of the geological researches and thesis, where they are deposited the various Italian universities (such as Florence). The rapport of these operating oil companies, as well as some synthetic studies carried out recently or scientific missions of friendly countries.
The territory of Somalia is located on the edge of the African continent and is part of the Somali Peninsula. It is also known as the Horn of Africa. Somalia has the longest coast line in Africa which extends to 1,000 km along the Red Sea and 1,900 km along the Indian Ocean. The total area of Somalia is 637, 650 km2.
Many potential offshore and onshore parts of Somalia have not been adequately explored until now. It has been reported that the volume of sediments in the basins of Somalia are larger than the volumes of sediments in the Arabian Peninsula.
The wells drilled in the basins of Somalia have demonstrated to have regular and non-fluctuating pressure and temperature. This proves that the potential of petroleum reserves in Somalia have higher quality than those from the Arabian Peninsula which have fluctuating pressure and temperature.
Stratigraphy (branch of geology which studies rock layers (strata) and layering (stratification): The Somali basins are composed of the following main ones:
- Daban basin
- Migiurtinia Basin
- Mudugh Basin
- Mogadishu Basin (Ex Coriolei Basin)
- Chismaio and Lamu Basin
- El-Wak Mandera Basin
- Ogaden Basin
In 1992, a joint report of the United Nations and the World Bank on Africa ranked North Eastern Somalia 2nd after Sudan as the potential regional producer.
It is apparent that there is a renewed interest in the West to the local hydrocarbons whose prospects appear promising in light of the geological contiguity of Somalia with the Arabian Peninsula. This interest has re-emerged in the semiautonomous region of Puntland due to its relative stability.
In 2012 and 2013 Somaliland signed two agreements with different companies. Some exploration blocks are located in the disputed region of Sool. Lack of security in the allotted areas deters companies to make the necessary infrastructure for a viable exploration activity. This prevalent lack of security exists in almost all of Somaliland Region.
Puntland, on the other hand, was a proponent and a leading advocate for adequate research and establishing a proper and unambiguous Somali Petroleum Law.
The commitment to bring these efforts to fruition are still on table as almost every region has keen interest of welcoming oil exploration companies; however, security has a limiting issue that needs immediate and undivided attention.
In 2012, the Federal Government of signed an agreement for the exploration of potential offshore and onshore oil fields with Soma Oil and Gas Exploration. This company will conduct seismic survey off the coast of Somalia to map the possible existence of oil fields. In exchange of the data obtained, the government in Mogadishu will ensure that the British company gets the right of first refusal on the twelve most promising blocks.
The signing of the agreement between Mogadishu and Soma Oil and Gas Exploration is likely to complete a framework already perceived as “uncertain and at risk”. Somalia is far from being a country at peace. Even though there have been some progress to establish a semblance of stability in the country, the reality is that peace in Somalia proved to be very elusive.
Further, in 2014 the Federal Ministry of minerals and water resources signed an agreement for the exploration of potential offshore and onshore oil fields with Shell Oil Gas exploration.
We all know that there is a renewed interest for Somali hydrocarbons and a rush to secure concessions from the Somali Government. It is not anybody’s interest to have a lopsided agreement where the Somali people become victims due to the weakness of their Central Government. Such missteps could further deteriorate the political, economic and social affairs of the Country. It may rekindle the old clan rivalry and deepen the state of lawlessness in Somalia.
Today, Britain is on the driver’s seat when it comes to the exploration of Somalia’s hydrocarbons. This proactive policy from the British Government is in the expense of the old allies of Somalia like Italy. Italy, that had a strong cultural and economic interest in Somalia is practically sidelined and apparently has no say about the real issues in Somali politics.
Security is the key issue that, if improved, could allow Somalia to reappear on the International stages.
History teaches us that investing in volatile and unstable countries, especially in hydrocarbons, is not only unprofitable but also a risky and destabilizing venture for that country. It will not contribute to the efforts of that country’s re-emergence from anarchy.
As a result, it is in everyone’s interest to put emphasis on security before getting into uncertain agreements with companies that have murky history in dealing with weak states like Somalia.
In addition, the region of Nugaal has an underground river that flows from the Ethiopian highlands through Laas Canood City all the way to the Indian Ocean at the City of Eyl.
This underground river is quite deep in some places and is not economically exploitable. However, in some areas it is very close to the surface and would easily be extracted which could have a dramatic effect for the economy of the country in general, and that of Puntland in particular.
By Prof. Abdi Salah Hussein (PhD in Geology)
Email: [email protected]
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