Soma Oil & Gas May Invest $20 Million to Survey War-Torn Somalia

Soma Oil & Gas Exploration Ltd., a U.K.-based company focused on Somalia, plans to invest about $20 million to survey the African nation rebuilding from decades of war, Chief Executive Officer Robert Sheppard said.

The company will initially analyze any data that exists even after conflict destroyed a large part of the country’s infrastructure and thwarted efforts to establish a functioning central administration and the rule of law since 1991.

“At the same time we will be looking at all the seismic ships available in the world to see when we can get on schedule for seismic surveying,” Sheppard said yesterday in a phone interview from London. Work to conduct a two-dimensional seismic study should be completed in 12 to 18 months, he said.

Somalia’s government led by President Hassan Sheikh Mohamoud marks the 16th administration since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre. The nation is positioned within a region where oil and gas discoveries over the past seven years have accelerated investment in exploration.

In Kenya, where Tullow Oil Plc (TLW) discovered the country’s first crude deposit last year, output of oil is expected to start next year. The 2006 discovery of crude in Uganda may lead to commercial production by 2016, while explorers in natural-gas producing Tanzania have found the biggest reserves of the resource in eastern Africa after Mozambique.

Soma Oil & Gas, which was founded this year and whose chairman is former British Conservative party leader Michael Howard, announced on Aug. 6 it agreed with Somalia to gather data from offshore areas and “limited” inland acreage. It plans to build a data bank on behalf of the government.

“Depending on the data we find we will decide which blocks to apply for” exploration and drilling rights, Sheppard said.

Somalia plans to increase the number of oil and gas exploration blocks to 300 of 5,000 square kilometers (1,931 square miles) each, after sub-dividing the existing 25 areas, Hussein Ali Ahmed, managing director of state-owned Somalia Petroleum Corp., said in April. Somalia aims to sign as many as 30 oil and gas production contracts this year, he said.

To contact the reporter on this story: David Malingha Doya in Nairobi at dmalingha@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Nasreen Seria at nseria@bloomberg.net

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