Seychelles, Mauritius plan joint offshore oil, gas exploration

Mon Aug 19, 2013 12:49pm BST

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* E. Africa a new frontirer in oil, gas exploration

* Revenue to be shared equally by Indian Ocean island nations

By George Obulutsa

NAIROBI, Aug 19 (Reuters) - Seychelles and Mauritius plan to jointly explore for petroleum in an area in the Indian Ocean that they both own.

East Africa has become a focal point for exploration after oil discoveries in Uganda and Kenya and natural gas deposits in Tanzania and Mozambique.

"An Authority will be established to deal with the Licensing and to oversee the activities in the Joint management Area. All revenues will be split 50:50," Eddy Belle, chief executive officer of Seychelles upstream regulator PetroSeychelles said in an emailed response to questions from Reuters.

"Mauritius and Seychelles are still working on the legal framework that will dictate oil exploration and exploitation in the Joint Management Area (JMA). No deadline has been set for the opening of the area."

The two island nations received permission in 2012 from the United Nations for an extended continental shelf off their respective coasts, estimated to measure 396,000 square km. The granting of the joint exploration rights was meant to forestall any future maritime territorial disputes.

In June, Seychelles invited oil and gas companies to bid for exploration blocks, bringing to an end a two-year moratorium, and introducing new rules for bidders after completing a review of laws regulating the sector.

So far, Afren Plc and Australia's WHL Energy are the only companies holding exploration licences in Seychelles, an archipelago of islands northeast of Madagascar.

PetroSeychelles said in early August it had already received two new applications under the newly introduced Open File Licensing Initiative, which were undergoing due diligence before proceeding to the next stage of evaluation.

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