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Kenyan Oil, Hot and Getting Hotter

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An interview with Taipan's Maxwell Birley.

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James Stafford: How does the industry view the financial terms offered by Nairobi in oil and gas?

Maxwell Birley: We believe the terms are reasonably attractive, at least for an oil discovery. The reason that only a few exploration wells were drilled in the past was due to the lack of exploration success -- and this was driven by the lack of understanding by the oil companies of the basins. It wasn't because of financial terms offered by the government.

Now that a discovery has been made and our knowledge is increasing, we are going to see a significant increase in drilling activity and therefore reserve additions to the country.

James Stafford: Is Kenya becoming more a game for the majors rather than the juniors, and do you think we will see more joint ventures in the near future?

Maxwell Birley: In our opinion there is a place for small companies at every stage of the development of an oil province. But it's definitely good news for those juniors with large land positions already in the country. The early movers -- i.e., the companies like Taipan that acquired their acreage before the oil was discovered -- will benefit from the recent oil discoveries. Most of the more prospective acreage has now been leased and therefore the competition for land is increasing.

As large volumes of oil are discovered, the large independent and Majors will start to notice the country more and more. The Majors-due to their size and complexity-tend to be exploration risk averse and prefer to concentrate on large, lower-risk developments.

James Stafford: How would you like to see Nairobi interact with the energy sector moving forward? And how does Kenya compare with other venues in the region like Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Sudan?

Maxwell Birley: There is no doubt that Nairobi is a premium location for business, tourism and families. This is illustrated by the fact that many multi-nationals operating in the sub-Sarahan African region have their head offices in Nairobi. Regarding interaction, it is the oil industry that will need to develop an active and well respected industry body so that broad industry issues can be discussed at the higher levels.

James Stafford: Kenya is clearly the East African leader in oil infrastructure, and is now starting the Lamu Port-South Sudan-Ethiopia Transit corridor (LAPSSET) project. But it will cost $25 billion for the roads, the 1200 km pipeline and 120,000 barrel-per-day refinery. How feasible do think this project is and why? Is it feasible in the timeframe projected by Nairobi?

Maxwell Birley: The resources in Uganda and to some extend south Sudan must be exported. A pipeline through Kenya seems to be the most feasible.

Regarding the time line, having 2.5 billion barrels sitting in the ground just west of Kenya in Uganda is a really strong motivation to build the pipeline quickly. In South Sudan I think they started pumping oil back up north again now, but I think they will want to go through Kenya in the near future.

Whether it's LAPSSET or the Tullow consortium someone is going to build a pipeline through Kenya to the coast in the next few years. We think the pipeline will be located within 175 kilometres from our acreage. The pipeline will be good for everybody in the region but it should be particularly positive for us.

So when we make a discovery on Block 2B, the pipeline will be in the construction phase. In the interim we'll truck the oil by bowser the early production from the fields. Then, depending on the size of any discoveries, we'll build a connecting pipeline into the pipeline from Uganda. I think we're in a very fortunate position now.
No positions in stocks mentioned.
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