* Tullow wants Total, CNOOC role for Congo Blocks 1, 2
*Rivals propose a $2.5 billion oil pipeline to Kenya
By Katrina Manson
KINSHASA, Dec 3 Britain's Tullow Oil (TLW.L) has
enlisted Uganda's help to win back two disputed Congo oil blocks
it wants to develop with France's Total (TOTF.PA) and China's
CNOOC, according to a letter obtained by Reuters.
The Nov. 19 letter from Tullow Chief Executive Aidan Heavey,
whose company is battling licence woes in both Congo and
neighbouring Uganda, says it sought the advice of Uganda's
energy minister and is now confident it can get the blocks back.
The disputed Congo blocks, scheduled to be explored by other
companies early in 2011, are on the Congo side of Lake Albert
and Tullow has said it wants to join them up with blocks it
already holds on the Ugandan side where it has agreed to partner
with Total and CNOOC (0883.HK).
"Now we are confident that with the assistance of (Uganda
Energy Minister) Hon. Eng. Hilary Onek, this matter can at last
be put to rest," said the letter, adding Tullow is ready to
consider dropping its legal challenges over the blocks.
"Tullow believes that it and its new partners in Uganda,
Total and CNOOC, can play a very strong role in the exploration
and exploitation of the whole of the Albertine Region."
Tullow sought legal action after Blocks 1 and 2 of Congo's
eastern Albertine Graben were awarded by presidential decree in
June to previously unheard of Caribbean-registered firms
Caprikat Ltd and Foxwhelp Ltd.
Tullow paid $500,000 for rights to the blocks in 2006, but
the deal was never ratified by the presidency.
"It's normal for them to fight but now they are trying to be
more friendly," Congo Energy Minister Celestin Mbuyu told
Reuters, without saying if he would meet the company for
negotiations. A Tullow spokesman declined to comment.
Despite Tullow's attempts to block development of the
concessions during international arbitration, exploration of the
blocks is set to begin next month. [ID:nLDE6AO1RZ]
Giuseppe Ciccarelli, CEO and general manager of Oil of
Congo, a Congolese-registered company that will operate the
blocks and in which Caprikat and Foxwhelp will have 85 percent,
told Reuters exploration would start in January.
"I think that the bad time is over ... Now we go at full
steam," he told Reuters in an interview.
He said the first phase of exploration would start with
seismic and aerial surveys from Jan. 10 and would cost $10-15
million, and that the company would meet unnamed companies as
potential investor partners next week.
The offshore companies, whose shareholders via a
Swiss-administered fund have not been revealed, are also
advising the Congo government on plans for a $2.5 billion oil
pipeline running from Lake Albert to Kenya's Mombasa port.
Minutes of a meeting held on Oct. 19 in Kampala, signed by
energy ministers from Congo, Uganda and Kenya and seen by
Reuters, show that Oil of Congo advocated the development of an
"inter-governmental company" to own the proposed pipeline.
"The peak production timing of the potential from the
Albertine Graben is predicted to be 2016 and by this time, the
pipeline infrastructure could be in place," said the minutes.
(Editing by Richard Valdmanis and Jon Loades-Carter)