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Very good news for Ghana as the Tullow operated TEN field nears 85% completion with first oil targeted for early Q3 2016. Currently, 11 pre-drilled wells are being completed and final commissioning and testing of the integrated facilities will start during 2Q 2017, with production ramping up toward plateau later in 2017. Tullow estimates overall capex costs for TEN at around $5 billion, excluding the FPSO lease costs. Total capex to first oil will likely be around $4 billion, with the remainder thereafter largely directed at drilling and completion of an additional 13 wells. Export of associated gas for domestic use is expected to start in 2017.

This feat notwithstanding, the timing for the completion of the additional 13 wells could be derailed by the ongoing Ghana-Maritime border dispute being adjudicated upon at the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS). Back in March 2015, Cote d’Ivoire filed a Request for provisional measures at the court (Case No. 23 – Provisional Measures) requesting the Special Chamber to prescribe provisional measures requiring Ghana to:

  1. “take all steps to suspend all ongoing oil exploration and exploitation operations in the disputed area;
  2. refrain from granting any new permit for oil exploration and exploitation in the disputed area;
  3. take all steps necessary to prevent information resulting from past, ongoing or future exploration activities conducted by Ghana, or with its authorization, in the disputed area from being used in any way whatsoever to the detriment of Côte d’Ivoire;
  4. and, generally, take all necessary steps to preserve the continental shelf, its superjacent waters and its subsoil; and
  5. desist and refrain from any unilateral action entailing a risk of prejudice to the rights of Côte d’Ivoire and any unilateral action that might lead to aggravating the dispute”.

At the same public hearing, Ghana requested the Special Chamber to deny all of Côte d’Ivoire’s requests for provisional measures. The court ruled majorly in Cote d’Ivoire’s favour on the basis that they presented enough material to show that the rights it seeks to protect in the disputed area are PLAUSIBLE – i.e. real and imminent risk that irreparable damage may be caused to them. The court ordered that Ghana should take all the necessary steps to ensure that no new drilling either by Ghana or under its control takes place in the disputed area. A number of hydrocarbon deposits located entirely or partly within the disputed area include Tano West and Enyenra. The country could find its oil assets in the disputed area substantially diminished should the court rule against it come mid-2017.

Media reported that Ghana filed its full statement of case claiming ownership of the disputed maritime border on September 4, 2015 and Cote d’Ivoire has up to April 4, 2016, to file its counter- defence as to why it should be declared the owner of disputed oilfields and adjoining seabed. Ghana is expected to submit a reply to Cote d’Ivoire’s counter defence in July 2016 whereas Cote d’Ivoire is expected to file a rejoinder in October 2016. February 2017 has been scheduled to hear full oral hearings of the substantive case. Therefore, the drilling and completion of the 13 additional will have to be put on hold until after the ruling sometime mid 2017 (i.e. about 2 years from now at the most).

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