Kosmos drilling before end of the year?
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According to latest available sources, Kosmos and Cairn still plan to initiate its controversial drilling in occupied Western Sahara before the end of the year.
Published 02 December 2014

According to an investor report by Cairn Energy, dated 17 November 2014, the drilling operations offshore Boujdour, occupied Western Sahara, are still scheduled for this year, albeit late in the fourth quarter. The operation is in violation of international law, as it fails to take into account the wishes of the people of the territory. The agreement is signed with the Government of Morocco. No state in the world recognise the waters offshore Western Sahara as part of Morocco.

The oil rig chartered by Kosmos and partners to undertake the actual drilling - the Atwood Achiever owned by Atwood Oceanics Inc - is still located in the northernmost part of Senegal, close to the border with Mauritania. The vessel remained in the area for about three weeks now, which is longer than the time necessary for bunkering.

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Sources confirm to WSRW that the rig is drilling a prospect in southern Mauritania which straddles the boundary with northern Senegal. Kosmos holds an oil Block in southern Mauritania and has a farm-in agreement with Timmis Corp which holds a Block in the north of Senegal. Upon completing its drilling operation, the rig will move on to Western Saharan waters.

This information is supported by Atwood Oceanics CEO Rob Saltiel, who stated in a conference call on 11 November on the firm's fourth quarter earnings: "The Achiever left the shipyard in ready-to-drill condition, benefiting greatly from the lessons learned on the Atwood Advantage. The Achiever has already completed two stops on its mobilization and is now headed to Mauritania to complete some final tests before commencing drilling operations." And also "I visited the Achiever in Singapore in mid-September and I spent time touring the ship and meeting with the crews. I can attest to the fact that we have assembled a capable and motivated rig team that is eager to begin drilling for our client, Kosmos Energy, later this quarter."

This indicates that Kosmos Energy and partners will start pumping oil in occupied Western Sahara before the UN Security Council will discuss ongoing events in Africa's last colony in April of 2015.

Further evidence that Kosmos will beat the UN to the punch comes from the company itself. According to Middle East Economic Digest (MEED), the Chief Exploration Officer of Kosmos, Brian Maxted, stated in a conference call on 3 November 2014 that the results of the exploratory well on the so-called 'Cap Boujdour Offshore' block will be announced during the first quarter of 2015, meaning before the UN Security Council gets together.

In its quarterly report to the US Securities and Exchange Commission of 30 September, Kosmos Energy stated the following: "In September 2014, we took delivery of the new build 6th generation drillship “Atwood Achiever” from Atwood Oceanics, Inc. The rig is expected to commence drilling operations in Northwest Africa in the fourth quarter of 2014. The rig agreement covers an initial period of three years at a day rate of approximately $0.6 million, with an option to extend the agreement for an additional three-year term. We have entered into a rig sharing agreement, whereby two rig slots (estimated to be 90 days during 2015 and 70 days during 2016) were assigned to a third-party."

The mentioned third party appears to be Freeport-McMoRan, which signed a rig sharing agreement with Kosmos on 1 April 2014. As such, Freeport-McMoRan will have usage of the Atwood Achiever for drilling in the Toubkal-1 well, in Morocco proper, for a limited amount of time in 2015 and 2016.

Meanwhile, Kosmos has renamed the Gargaa site, off Boujdour in Western Sahara, to the Al Khayr site, as announced in its third quarter results: "The Atwood Achiever drillship is currently mobilizing to northwest Africa in advance of the company’s multi-year drilling campaign. The initial exploration well targeting the Al Khayr prospect (previously named Gargaa) is expected to spud late in the fourth quarter". Interestingly, al-Khayr is Arabic for "the best".

Kosmos Energy's drill plans emerged in the oil media, in Upstream Online on 21 February this year. At the time, exploration drilling in occupied Western Sahara was still planned for "October or November".

Lastly, it is worth to take note of the scope of the drilling programme in Morocco and Western Sahara. Cairn Energy stated 16 May 2014 that "Cairn has established a position in both the Jurassic carbonate shelf and the emerging deep-water Mesozoic clastic exploration plays. The region is attracting industry interest, with other operators taking licenses in the area and the industry planning to drill about 10 wells now through 2016."(our emphasis).

The company has stated the drilling-programme in "northwest Africa" would last for three years.

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