Liberia says to ink oil deal with Exxon, COPL

Fri Mar 8, 2013 9:16am EST
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* Deal adds heft to Liberia's oil sector

* Interest in West Africa rising after string of finds

* Concerns linger over fairness of Liberian contracts

By Richard Valdmanis

DAKAR, March 8 (Reuters) - Liberia will sign off on a deal giving oil major Exxon Mobil and its partner Canadian Overseas Petroleum Limited rights to develop an offshore oil block, a presidential spokeswoman said on Friday.

Landing the world's largest private sector oil company will add heft to Liberia's nascent oil industry. The deal comes as the impoverished West African state is seeking to overhaul its petroleum policy and bolster transparency.

"The president feels that this deal is in the best interests of the country and she is scheduled to sign it later this afternoon," the spokeswoman for Liberia's President Ellen Johnson-Sirleaf said.

The accord for offshore Block 13 will need to be ratified by parliament, something which is likely in the coming weeks.

Interest in West Africa's offshore energy sector has surged after Ghana struck oil in 2007. Companies have since announced a string of smaller finds in regional neighbours like Sierra Leone and Liberia.   Continued...