Alarmed by the political and security turmoil that occurred in the Ethio-Somali Regional State last week, oil companies engaged in oil exploration projects in the region have evacuated their staff to Addis Ababa, it was learnt.
Following the security crisis in the fragile region, conflict erupted in the regional capital, Jigjiga, on July 28. Civilians have been killed and houses, a bank, shops and churches have been looted and torched in Jigjiga and other small towns in the region.
Poly GCL Petroleum Investments, the Chinese company engaged in oil and gas exploration and development projects in the Ogaden basin, has evacuated its key personnel by air early this week. Sources told The Reporter that the company transported its key personnel mostly Chinese by chartered plane since July 29. Ethiopian Airlines has suspended flights to the region. The Chinese petroleum experts and engineers were stationed in Hilala, Calub and Warder oil and gas projects. Sources said the oil workers will be redeployed to the project sites once the security situation improves.
A senior executive of Poly GCL denies the evacuation operation. “It is a crew change,” he told The Reporter. Koang Tutlam (MD), state minister of the Ministry of Mines, Petroleum and Natural Gas, has also denied the report. “This is not an accurate information. Why would they evacuate their employees? Things are moving as usual,” he told The Reporter. According to Koang, it could be for a vacation that the Chinese came to Addis Ababa.
Poly GCL has been engaged in the exploration and development of oil and gas resources in the Ogaden basin since 2014. The company is in the process to develop the Calub and Hilala gas fields. The company has discovered crude oil reserve in the Hilala locality and began test production last June. It has also discovered additional gas reserve in a locality called Dohar.
Another Chinese company, BGP Geoservices, which is contracted by Poly-GCL, has also evacuated its staff to Addis Ababa. BGP has transported its team of Chinese petroleum experts by a chartered plane. BGP is a geophysical service company that collects, interprets and process seismic data.
Sources told The Reporter that the Poly GCL and BGP’s camps, which are highly guarded by the National Defense Forces, were not attacked. According to sources, the National Defences Forces have mobilized more troops to the project sites. “There is no reported incident near the oil and gas projects but the companies took a precautious measure,” sources said. “The oil projects are far from Jigjiga where the security situation has deteriorated. We hope that peace and security will be restored soon,” they added.
However, another source told The Reporter that a field vehicle that belongs to Poly GCL has been taken away by local residents.
Poly GCL Petroleum Investments is planning to develop the Calub and Hilala gas fields which were discovered by an American company Tenneco in 1972. The Chinese company is in the process to construct a gas export pipeline to the Port of Djibouti and a gas refinery plant at a cost of four billion dollars. The pipeline line construction work was scheduled to begin in September 2018. “Work will not commence unless peace and security is restored,” sources said.
New Age, South West Energy and Delonex Energy are the other companies engaged in oil exploration projects in the Ogaden basin. The Reporter has learnt that currently these companies do not have active personnel at the project sites.