Liberia’s oil potential—like the nation’s political future—remains uncertain. But that hasn’t stopped the foreign investors from speculating.
Case in point, Arthur Millholland, CEO of Canadian Overseas Petroleum partnered with Exxon Mobil on offshore exploration in Liberia:
"Our independent evaluator, you know, has given a probability of finding between a 90% probability to a 10% probability between 1.8 billion and 4.2 billion barrels of potential recoverable oil," on the chances of a discovery there.
To attempt a translation of that, there’s either a 90% chance they’ll at least find 1.8 billion barrels in their block and and a 10% chance it could be as much as 4.2 billion barrels. (Alternately, there’s around a 50% chance they’ll hit 3 billion barrels.)
That would put it on par with Ghana’s Jubilee oilfield.
And, keep in mind, the COPL/Exxon Mobil holds one of 17 exploration blocks located off of the Liberian coast.
But, as Anadarko’s experience in Liberia showed, the oil in the Liberian basin may not be of commercial quality. Bob Daniels, the company’s SVP of exploration, didn’t sound as optimistic as Milholland when mentioning Liberia last February, indicating only that the company would “probably” continue drilling exploration wells there this year.
African Petroleum similarly did not make a commercial discovery off of Liberia, but believes it has found "significant oil potential" based on its drilling to date.
As long as this uncertainty endures—and it may push past the 2017 presidential election—the only thing Liberia is guaranteed to reap from its nascent oil industry is the contentious politics that seem to go hand in hand with the prospect of oil riches.