Soco and the gorillas in Virunga

Thursday, Feb 07 2013 by
9

There has been a lot of discussion of this issue, much of which has struck me as ill informed and somewhat hysterical.

So my ears pricked up last night whilst watching the latest episode on David Attenborough's Africa series.

Last night's TV programme included quite a long segment on Virunga and the mountain gorillas. I was struck by the fact that the region was described as the most intensively cultivated area in the whole of Africa. Gorilla numbers are down to 800 and in the face of increasing human population they have retreated up the sides of the mountains into what are now effectively little islands of protected forest which are disconnected from each other and which rise above the lowlands - which now contain hardly any remnants of the indigenous forest cover and its wild life.

Those who complain about Soco exploring the region for oil should watch the programme and reflect on the fact that nobody ever climbs mountains to look for oil. The exploration activity is not targetting the forests occupied by the gorillas but rather the low land areas some considerable distance away. If oil is found then the net effect will be to offer alternative employment to those who would otherwise have no choice but agriculture which would lead to more pressure onn gorilla habitat. It will also generate revenue for the government which would enable greater resources to be made available for conservation.

(Clearly that desirable outcome is hostage to the level of corruption that prevails - but that's another story)

 

PLEASE NOTE THAT THE PHOTOGRAPHS POSTED BELOW BY OTHER CONTRIBUTORS DO NOT SHOW VIRUNGA OR ANY OTHER LOCATION WHERE SOCO IS ACTIVE.   AS FAR AS I CAN SEE THEY HAVE NOTHING WHATEVER TO DO WITH SOCO,  UGANDA OR OIL EXPLORATION.


Disclaimer:  

The author may hold shares in this company. All opinions are his own. You should check any statements that appear factual and seek independent professional advice before making any investment decision.


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SOCO International plc is an international oil and gas exploration and production company. The Company has oil and gas interests in Vietnam, which includes Block 9-2 and Block 16-1; Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), which includes Marine XI Block and Marine XIV Block, the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa), consists of Nganzi block and Block V and Angola, which include Cabinda Onshore North Block. The Company's operations are located in South East Asia and Africa. It holds its interests in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville), through its 85%-owned subsidiary, SOCO Exploration and Production Congo SA (SOCO EPC). It holds its interests in the Democratic Republic of Congo (Kinshasa) through its 85%-owned subsidiary SOCO Exploration and Production DRC Sprl. The Company’s net entitlement volumes were approximately 15,500 barrels of oil equivalent per day. more »

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21 Posts on this Thread show/hide all

jseth123 7th Feb '13 2 of 21
1

In reply to peterg, post #1

Peterg,

I'm glad I'm not the only one thinking that...Hardly a model for E+Ps though!

Cheers,
JS123

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loglorry 7th Feb '13 3 of 21
3

Should they not be banning agriculture then rather than oil exploration as it would seem the former is to blame for the removal of Gorilla habitat?

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marben100 7th Feb '13 4 of 21
1

nobody ever climbs mountains to look for oil

 

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emptyend 8th Feb '13 5 of 21
3

In reply to marben100, post #4

Just for the avoidance of doubt, perhaps you could quote the location of that photo and make clear that it is absolutely nothing to do with either SOCO or Virunga.........given that the WWF have stooped at nothing in inventing stories for their fund-raising efforts.

It is plainly a completely different scenario - and it is certainly nothing to do with SOCO and probably not even in Africa. And SOCO have repeatedly made clear that they have no intention of going anywhere near the mountains or the gorillas, irrespective of any prospectivity.

Management have a tough enough job trying to get people to stick to the facts and recognise that the even the hoped-for Block V activities (in the event that the aerial survey is positive) have absolutely nothing to do with gorilla habitat, being 37kms or much more from the nearest gorilla. I don't think shareholders help by raising the association again, even if to demonstrate how false it is - and I an certain that management have got better things to do than deal with enquiries on matters like these, which are usually ill-informed and/or mendacious. The sooner the WWF move on to deal with actual facts and to consider more constructively the potential for improving the lot of the local human population (who are the ones who cause the problems for the gorillas and park rangers), the better it will be for everyone.

ps....I see from the photo's source that it is captioned "Oil drilling platform in Jayawijaya Mountains, Indonesia" - though whether that is accurate is anyone's guess. So note once again the completely unqualified statement made by SOCO: "it will never seek to have operations in the mountain gorilla habitat, the Virunga Volcanoes or the Virunga equatorial rainforest"

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marben100 8th Feb '13 6 of 21
6

Just for the avoidance of doubt, perhaps you could quote the location of that photo and make clear that it isabsolutely nothing to do with either SOCO or Virunga..

Well of course it's nothing to do with Virunga. It just illustrates that tournesol's statement that "people don't climb mountains to drill for oil" isn't correct. Mountains may represent structural highs and can be prime drilling locations.The rig shown in the photo looks pretty basic/primitive - not the sort of thing Soco would use.

Soco undeniably faces difficult political and environmental challenges in Virunga.

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SW10Chap 8th Feb '13 7 of 21
12

In reply to emptyend, post #5

I see from the photo's source that it is captioned "Oil drilling platform in Jayawijaya Mountains, Indonesia"

It's a picture that's all over the web, and if that's an oil-drilling platform then I'm a gorilla's uncle.

More likely to be related to mineral prospecting/mapping - there's quite a bit of gold in them there mountains.

It just illustrates that tournesol's statement that "people don't climb mountains to drill for oil" isn't correct. Mountains may represent structural highs and can be prime drilling locations.The rig shown in the photo looks pretty basic/primitive - not the sort of thing Soco would use.

He (tournesol) is right - there's not much point climbing up to drill down. The structural highs we're looking for are ancient and not likely to be reproduced at surface. Bits of the Gulf of Mexico are quite deep ;-)

SW10
(Who's done a bit of getting oil out the ground in Indonesia.)

 

 

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redhill 8th Feb '13 8 of 21
2

In reply to marben100, post #6

The rig shown in the photo looks pretty basic/primitive

Medieval is the description that comes to mind.

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emptyend 8th Feb '13 9 of 21
2

In reply to SW10Chap, post #7

I see from the photo's source that it is captioned "Oil drilling platform in Jayawijaya Mountains, Indonesia"

 

It's a picture that's all over the web, and if that's an oil-drilling platform then I'm a gorilla's uncle.

Well I must admit that my first draft of my post to Marben made the point that the rig was almost certainly to do with some other non-hydrocarbon minerals but I edited that bit out when I clicked the photo and saw the caption.

As usual SW10's points are all good.

As for the "case for the defence" re the photo, I would simply point out that two pieces of disinformation don't make one piece of information.  This whole thread is probably worse than useless (with due respect to the thread author, whom I'm certain had the best of intentions).

As for this point:

Mountains may represent structural highs and can be prime drilling locations.

......it is complete rubbish. That is why most oilfields are found in large saucer-shaped features commonly referred to as basins!

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marben100 8th Feb '13 10 of 21
4

In reply to SW10Chap, post #7

Thanks, as ever, for your expert input, SW10. On reflection, you could well be right and that rig could be for mineral prospecting, rather than oil drilling, by the looks of it [unfortunate labelling by those trying to sell the stock photo]. However, as Peterg pointed out, drilling does take place in mountains: Vast's picture is incontrovertible:

Of course oil companies will try to avoid it, wherever possible. Besides environmental issues, drilling from a mountain must add sigificantly to complexity/costs. However, sometimes, as in the case of Qara Dagh, I guess the terrain makes it unavoidable.

 

Good to see that Soco have a clear statement on their website:

SOCO confirms it will never seek to have operations in the mountain gorilla habitat, the Virunga Volcanoes or the Virunga equatorial rainforest.

Cheers,

Mark

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emptyend 8th Feb '13 11 of 21

In reply to marben100, post #10

However, as Peterg pointed out, drilling does take place in mountains: Vast's picture is incontrovertible

Looking at that picture of the terrain, I would suggest that they have picked that location because it is the only FLAT drilling site for miles around - and the fact that it is at the top of a hill is mere coincidence!

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WeeEck 8th Feb '13 12 of 21

Looking at the last picture. It is the first time I have seen what look like settlement ponds beside an oil rig!
Just my tuppence worth,
Eric

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SW10Chap 8th Feb '13 13 of 21
1

In reply to emptyend, post #11

I would suggest that they have picked that location because it is the only FLAT drilling site for miles around

It probably is a question of flatness - there are certainly much higher points nearby!

<arben - you're right about the complexity of the geography: this is the terrain - it's pretty daunting, dipping steeply from SW to NE, but with two steep-sided ridges running in parallel. They need to find somewhere between the two ridges and the wellsite looks to be at around 1300m altitude (you may be able to see a 'flat' spot with the 1300m contour kinking through it at the centre of the map), there's a steep-sided ridge to the NE (in front of the photographer) rising to about 1500m and another ridge behind the photographer rising steeply to nearly 1700m.

Here's the same site from Niko Resources' point of view... their photographer has clambered higher up the ridge:

Qara Dagh block - Niko Resources

(Apologies if the photo disappears at some stage in the future - Niko relinquished the block in Nov 2011.)

SW10

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loglorry 8th Feb '13 14 of 21
2

So to get a horizontal well you just need to drill at the side of a mountain - now it all makes sense :-)

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extrader 8th Feb '13 15 of 21
1

Hi all,

With all this debate over Virunga, I'm faintly surprised that no-one's commented on the 'other' gorilla in the room : today's news that ENI / senior management incl Paolo Scaroni are being investigated re allegations of corruption in Algeria......

While there may be nothing to it, it's an unwelcome distraction for this occasionally-mooted suitor for SOCO VN - esp. if an important condition precedent for any bid (that of reserves update) were about to be released.

GLA

extrader
(major (for me) holder of SIA, small holder of PCI

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WeeEck 8th Feb '13 16 of 21

Link to the above.

No Interference.

Scaroni, 66, was appointed Eni CEO in June 2005. He is serving his third term, which expires in 2014. Scaroni told Italian newspaper La Repubblica he doesn’t and can’t interfere with Saipem contracts because 90 percent of the company’s operations are with Eni competitors. Eni rallied after two days of declines in Milan trading. The shares rose as much as 1.6 percent to 17.61 euros, and were at 17.53 euros as of 1:22 p.m. local time. Saipem’s new CEO Umberto Vergine said yesterday that he wasn’t aware of any new developments in the investigation and the company has no plans to set aside financial provisions related to the probe. Saipem, which is 43 percent-owned by Eni and is Europe’s biggest oil-services provider, has always denied any wrongdoing.

topics.bloomberg.com/paolo-scaroni/

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tournesol 8th Feb '13 17 of 21
4

Chaps, given the thread title, I'd be grateful if anyone posting photographs of rigs captioned them prominently stating for the record that they are not oil rigs in Virunga but are actually drilling for gold in Indonesia or whatever.

Otherwise it is easy for casual readers to get completely the wrong impression.

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fuiseog 1st Aug '13 18 of 21
6

WWF to the rescue!

The medias holiday silly season is upon us. World events are on the back burner. Many of the luckier hacks will be sunning themselves somewhere far from the office. The hard done-by remaining editors will have relaxed their gatekeeping rigour and be fishing around desperately for copy: need to get those pages filled!

No better time to get a bit of emotive PR out to fill the headline deficit:

http://www.wwf.org.uk/what_we_do/press_centre/index.cfm?uNewsID=6765

And a good take-up showing results a few hours after the release:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/africaandindianocean/democraticrepublicofcongo/10213114/Oil-exploration-could-lead-to-devastating-consequences-in-Virunga-Park.html

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-africa-23526178

http://www.belfasttelegraph.co.uk/news/world-news/virunga-oil-exploration-warning-29463479.html

http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-08-01/congolese-park-worth-1-1-billion-per-year-without-oil-wwf-says.html

http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/aug/01/congo-mountain-gorillas-virunga-wwf

None of course identify the source or the disclaimers (below, my bold):

NOTE for journalists: The below image(s) are copyright protected and may only be used to illustrate the work of WWF in a positive light…..


WWF does not claim the actual animal(s) depicted were photographed in the 'Block V' area of Virunga National Park where oil extraction is intended to take place.


This species does occur in Virunga NP where animals of the same species could be affected by oil and gas exploration but WWF does not claim or imply the actual animal(s) depicted is threatened by oil extraction.


Whilst this image was photographed in Virunga National Park DRC, WWF does not claim the actual location depicted is in the specific 'Block V' area of the park where oil extraction is intended to take place.

Have to hand it to them, WWF know how to do PR.

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kenobi 4th Aug '13 19 of 21

Hi, fuiseog,

I must admit, putting aside the validity of the claims, I have been pretty impressed with the coverage they have managed to get. As you say though, silly season, I suppose that just means they timed it very well !

Hope you're well, I suspect block V will have little or no impact on the value shareholders get from SOCO, but I hope to be proved wrong (in a positive way),

Cheers, K

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emptyend 8th Aug '13 20 of 21
8

Articles continue to dribble out from various WWF sources - and I continue to offer my 2p.....

Despite my comment at the bottom of that piece, this article actually contains a more sensible approach from the WWF...viz....

“Our core argument is that the DRC government essentially has a choice,” says George Smeeton, a spokesman for WWF.

He told RTCC, “They could go ahead and allow oil drilling in the park, or the alternative is using the park sustainably, so we tried to put numbers on what value the park has being used as a sustainable resource.”

I don't have a problem with that idea. But, given that they have "put a figure" on it from their side (albeit one that can be argued with!!), then surely the quid pro quo is to allow SOCO International (LON:SIA) and the Government to put a figure on the potential oil and gas resources - because only then will they be able to make an informed choice.

 

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rhomboid1 12th Aug '13 21 of 21
8

In reply to emptyend, post #20

I noticed the following statement from RdS on the Soco website;

SOCO International’s statement on current activities in Virunga National Park
Tuesday 30 July 2013
Chairman of the Board, Rui de Sousa stated:
“We are aware of the various comments by different organistions on this subject.
Any reference to potentially changing the boundaries of the park is a matter for the DRC Government alone. It is not a subject that SOCO have ever raised. In a meeting with the Chief Executive of WWF-UK, David Nussbaum, on 4 July 2013, when he raised the subject, I explained that is not a necessary requirement for an aeromag or seismic study to take place on Lake Edward, as the national law already allow the authorities to authorise the type of studies we propose.
Despite the views of WWF, SOCO is extremely sensitive to the environmental significance of the Virunga National Park, and in fact I proposed to the CEO of WWF that we should consider ways in which development and conservation, can work in partnership in North Kivu. Development and environmental sustainability are not mutually exclusive.
The Block V project is unlike other exploration projects in that it is constrained by a strict step by step process that requires the direct approval of the DRC authorities at each phase and there is a specific emphasis on environmental monitoring studies and social investment during the early stages.
I also made it clear in my meeting with WWF that if the DRC state did proceed with oil exploration, that an accountable and responsible British company like SOCO – would be the best operator in the circumstances.
It is also important for all commentators to understand that this matter is far bigger than just WWF and SOCO. This is an absolutely crucial time in history for the DRC as a whole. It is already known that oil discoveries have been made across the border in Uganda, and that the DRC currently has no exploratory data to support the theory that these oil reserves might traverse the DRC border – and without such data, it is possible that the DRC would have no financial gain from shared reservoir(s) which could be drained from the Uganda side. This would be very serious for the region in decades to come.
The DRC Environment Ministry’s website has posted its own letter sent to UNESCO in which it sets out the national interest and the legal grounds for permitting an aerial survey over Lake Edward. It is irrefutable that oil companies still have a central role in today’s global energy supply and a successful oil project has the potential to transform the economic and social wellbeing of a whole country – as we have seen in Vietnam which despite a turbulent past is now a major developing economy.
The Virunga National Park has been in decline for many years officially falling below the standards required for a World Heritage Site. The potential for development just might be the catalyst that reverses this trend. So I believe that it is not for us, self interest groups nor others to dictate the proper course for the DRC to take to try to improve the livelihood of its citizens. It is surely the place of the elected government officials to decide the future of their country.”

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