Barely made public and already disputed: announced on August 10 by two local oil companies, SARPD OIL and PEPA, the discovery of the Delta de la Cuvette deposit is now being questioned by the Congolese section of the NGO coalition « Publish What You Pay » (PCQVP).
More specifically, the NGO group – which promotes transparency in the extractive industries – has doubts about the reliability of data on this onshore deposit in northern Congo. In a press release published on August 18, the coalition stated in the preamble that it had « learned with surprise of the discovery of an onshore oil field in the Basin » before considering the main cause of this controversy, the expected production volumes: « on what basis has this estimate been made at the current level of research, while only one well out of four is in the perforation phase », wonders PWYP for whom this « announcement seems to be the least intriguing ».
As a reminder, when the discovery of the Delta de la Cuvette field was announced on Saturday, August 10, the two oil companies in charge of the project, the Société africaine de recherche pétrolière et distribution (SARPD OIL) and Petroleum Exploration and Production Africa (PEPA), two firms owned by Congolese businessman Claude Wilfrid Etoka, had indicated that this new site could produce up to more than a billion cubic meters of hydrocarbons, including 359 million barrels of oil, enough to quadruple the country’s current daily oil production (350,000 barrels/day). A huge quantitative leap that, beyond the PWYP reaction, also prompts caution on the part of many informed observers in the industry. Interviewed by the pan-African weekly Jeune Afrique, Francis Perrin, research director at IRIS (Paris) and associate researcher at the Moroccan think tank Policy Center for the New South, recalled that »[…] at this stage, we must remain cautious. There is not yet any detailed technical information, or information protocols depending on the progress of the work, to validate such figures.
Another point addressed by the PWYP collective is the environmental issue. The Delta de la Cuvette deposit is located near an area with peat bogs, an ecosystem that plays an important role in the fight against climate change. « While recognizing the transparency in the operations related to this project, PWYP is very concerned about the advisability of implementing such a project with potentially significant environmental risks (…), » the release concludes.
Also read Congo-B: A new onshore deposit that could change the situation