Mega-Development by bp Sparks Interest in Mauritania’s Local Content

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With Senegal’s local content laws recently revised and strengthened, eyes now turn to its neighbor and fellow frontrunner in the MSGBC gas rush, Mauritania. The west African country is an attractive investment destination with 750 km of open coastline, proven world-class oil and gas reserves and over ten years without a security incident. Right now, 90 operators are active in Mauritania with 250 oil and gas permits, and with bp set to commence production from its Grand Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) project next year, the question arises – what will the country and its businesses get out of this?

Mauritania’s local content is currently an industry-led endeavor, with little by way of governing law. The current legal and regulatory framework for the sector is the Petroleum Code, finalized in 2010 as a replacement for the previous 1988 Hydrocarbons Ordinance and designed to boost the attractiveness of the industry, thereby promoting foreign investment.

As such, there are no further limitations placed on foreign investment and multinationals are essentially treated similarly to local firms, and whilst ideals like preferential contracting of local businesses, priority hiring of local people with equivalent qualifications and resource allocation for training are all set out, the lack of enforcement mechanisms effectively leave local content in the hands of the International Oil Companies (IOC) themselves. While not ideal, this can still work, as in the case of bp which has taken it upon itself to lead local content adoption by independently employing 110 Mauritanians in their head office in the capital city of Nouakchott and launching an interactive training center to improve capacity development for local staff in 2019.

However, the country’s proven advantage for local content as well as the nationalization of the oil and gas industry is its application of Production Sharing Contracts (PSC’s). These contracts have been in use for hydrocarbon operations in Mauritania since 1981, gradually gaining momentum from the four signed that decade to the 30 PSCs the last three decades have seen, ten of which are still active. These contracts go above and beyond the Petroleum Code’s 112 articles by setting out specific actions for the integration of local businesses into operations, adapted from a common contract on a case-by-case basis.

Except in rare circumstances, PSCs are awarded to IOCs after a bidding process, co-signed by the Mauritanian Ministry of Petroleum, Energy and Mines with validation by a Council of Ministers and published in the Official Gazette under the principles of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative. La Société Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures et de Patrimoine Minier (SMHPM), Mauritania’s national oil company, was established in 2009 and receives a guaranteed minimum participating interest of 10%, but beyond this, all contractors are obliged to supply the domestic market and to make use of local skills and expertise with enforceable milestone metrics for which they can be held accountable by the ministry. As per the Petroleum Code, any contractor performing works in Mauritania’s petroleum sector must now enter into a PSC and foreign contractors are required to incorporate a local company to engage in exploration or production activities.

While it is only the beginning stages for Mauritania’s oil and gas industry and local content laws, offshore developments – which account for the majority of the country’s industry – present less of an opportunity for local content but they can also be developed more rapidly at lower costs. The Petroleum Code might lack local content enforceability but there is plenty of room for evolution in its articles and decrees, having last been updated on July 29, 2015. In addition, a 2018 grant proposal from the Mauritanian government was sent to the International Development Association for $20 million – this was to support the development of hydrocarbons but also included the formation of a robust local content strategy, alongside a monitoring and evaluation framework for female participation in the industry.

Now, with the GTA project sparking widespread interest and boosting investment in the industry, there has never been a more opportune moment to kickstart discussions than at the MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power Conference & Exhibition 2022, gathering together key senior stakeholders, executives and policymakers in Dakar from September 1-2 this year.

MSGBC Oil, Gas & POWER 2022

Under the patronage of H.E. Macky Sall, President of the Republic of Senegal, MSGBC Oil, Gas & Power will once again take place in Dakar, Senegal, with the event serving as a catalyst for investment and multi-sector development in 2022. To find out more visit msgbcoilgasandpower.com or contact sales@18.198.47.39.

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Elliot Connor

Elliot Connor

Elliot Connor is Energy Capital & Power's Field Editor for the MSGBC region. He holds a PgD in Environmental Engineering and is currently pursuing a Masters in Business Administration. He is also a bestselling author, TED speaker and charity CEO, having priorly worked as a columnist for India’s largest newspaper: The Daily Pioneer.

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