Arab Strife Pushes Big Prize Oil Search to Morocco, Malta


LONDON, Aug 23 (Reuters) – Middle East turmoil has given a fresh spur to energy companies looking for big finds further afield to more stable and inviting hosts Morocco, Malta and Spain.

Close to known reserves and large markets, they offer tempting terms for explorers without the risks of production in Syria, Libya or Egypt.

Morocco has lured companies with the promise of a link to the energy-rich formations of West Africa, while in Malta there are hopes of an extension of Libya and Tunisia's geology.

Off Spain, Cairn Energy sees geological similarities with Israeli waters, home to two of the largest offshore gas fields found in the past decade.

"You either have to go to the technical frontiers or the political frontiers. In Morocco and Malta we're dealing with much more technical risk than political risk," Genel Energy's Chief Executive Tony Hayward, the former boss of oil major BP, told Reuters.

From Chevron, the second largest U.S. oil company with a market capitalisation of $231 billion, to Fastnet , listed on London's junior market and worth $80 million, firms have flocked to Morocco over the last eighteen months.

Gulfsands Petroleum typifies the trend. It was pumping about 10,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day in Syria before the civil war started and sanctions imposed.


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