On 27 October 2015, the Gabonese Minister for Petroleum announced the opening of the country’s 11th licensing round. The round will focus on 5 offshore blocks in deep water within the South Gabon Salt Basin. The Ministry of Petroleum and Hydrocarbons (“MPH”) has high hopes for the round and has indicated that it believes the acreage, although highly prospective, has the potential for commercial discoveries, basing its opinion on the recent discovery by Shell in its Leopard asset and also on the newly acquired 3D seismic procured by the MPH in conjunction with the licensing round. 

This licensing round sees the first opportunity for companies to bid for blocks under the new Hydrocarbon Law, which was enacted on 28 August 2014 and came into force on 15 September 2014, after the closure of the 10th licensing round in October 2013. Based on the process seen previously for the 10th round, successful companies at the bidding stage of this round will be invited to enter negotiations with the MPH to enter into an exploration and production sharing contract which will entitle those successful companies to an exclusive right to explore for and, in the event of a commercial discovery, produce any hydrocarbons it discovers. These exploration and production sharing contracts generally permit a maximum exploration phase of 8 years and a production phase of 10 years (with the possibility of renewal of the production contract for up to another 10 years). 

The MPH, along with the promoting agent have recently completed a global roadshow for the 11th licensing round and first bids for blocks can be submitted after 15 February 2016 with the deadline for bids currently set at 31 March 2016. The licensing round is only open to those companies that have pre-qualified for the bidding process, a condition of which is the purchase of a licence to a minimum amount of the newly acquired 3D multi-client seismic survey.