Cablegate: Oxy's 30-Year Extension in Libya and What Lies Ahead for Other Iocs
TRIPOLI 00000563 P CO 13-JUL-08 OXY'S 30-YEAR EXTENSION IN LIBYA AND WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR OTHER IOCS From:
CBPC, EACTAPP [EACTAPP@state.sgov.gov]
Sent: Sunday, July 13, 2008 4:06 PM
Subject: TRIPOLI 00000563 P CO 13-JUL-08 OXY'S 30-YEAR EXTENSION IN LIBYA AND
WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR OTHER IOCS 
DE RUEHTRO #0563/01 1951416
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P R 131416Z JUL 08
FM AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3677
INFO RUCPDOC/DEPT OF COMMERCE WASHINGTON DC
RUEHRB/AMEMBASSY RABAT 0660
RUEHTU/AMEMBASSY TUNIS 0548
RUEHAS/AMEMBASSY ALGIERS 0714
RUEHEG/AMEMBASSY CAIRO 1148
RUEHVT/AMEMBASSY VALLETTA 0321
RUEHRO/AMEMBASSY ROME 0450
RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 0540
RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 0859
RUEHTRO/AMEMBASSY TRIPOLI 4186
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 03 TRIPOLI 000563
DEPT FOR NEA/MAG; COMMERCE FOR NATE MASON
ENERGY FOR GINA ERICKSON
E.O. 12958: DECL: 7/13/2018
TAGS: ENRG EPET ECIN ECON EINV PREL LY
SUBJECT: OXY'S 30-YEAR EXTENSION IN LIBYA AND WHAT LIES AHEAD FOR OTHER IOCS REF: A) TRIPOLI 555 B) 2007 TRIPOLI 983 TRIPOLI 00000563 001.2 OF 003
CLASSIFIED BY: John T. Godfrey, CDA, Embassy Tripoli, U.S. Dept of State. REASON: 1.4 (b), (d)
1. (C) Summary: The long-awaited ratification of Oxy's contract extension in Libya has solidified its position as one of Libya's leading oil and gas players. The process by which the contract was finalized has shed light on what lies ahead for other foreign companies, all of whom are expected to be approached soon to sign similar deals. The extensions contain considerable benefits, including higher profits, anti-corruption measures and less state company obstructionism; however, they contain lower production shares and reduced bookable reserve levels, and mandate a heavy reliance on the thinly-stretched National Oil Corporation. Given projections for steadily rising global energy costs, it remains to be seen how long the new contracts will remain in place without amendment. End Summary.
2. (C) Following the well-publicized announcement of Occidental Petroleum's (Oxy) extension in Libya (Ref A), post's Econoff and Econ/Commercial Assistant sat down with John Winterman (protect), Oxy's Country Manager for Libya, to discuss the negotiation process and contract terms, and assess the playing field for other international oil companies (IOCs) active in Libya. Winterman's experience in his current position and former tenure as Oxy's Worldwide Exploration Manager for 7 years makes him one of the most knowledgeable observers of Libya's energy sector.
DONE DEAL - AT LAST
3. (C) Winterman confirmed the general contract terms outlined in press reports. Oxy and its partner OMV (Austria) signed a total of five Exploration and Production Sharing (EPSA) contracts with Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) on June 23. The contracts were based on terms of a "Heads of Agreement" memoranda signed between Oxy's Chairman and NOC Chairman Shukri Ghanem on November 24, 2007 (ref B). As reported in the press, Oxy paid a $1 billion signature bonus as part of the deal, and has committed to $2.5 billion (split 75/25 for Oxy/OMV) investment plan, with the NOC matching an equal amount for investment. Oxy intends to drill some 400 wells starting in 2011, requiring a minimum of 12-15 rigs working full-time. The contract extension allows them to bring in 50 additional staff, including 16 Amcits, all of whom already have their visas and residency permits.
4. (C) A two-person NOC negotiating team worked on all three agreements (Eni, Petro-Canada and Oxy). The NOC's driving force behind the negotiation process was Assam Ali Elmessallati, who bears the title Committee Member for Investment and Joint Venture Follow-Up. According to Winterman, Elmessallati stalled negotiations with Eni (the first of the three agreements that the NOC tackled), pulling a near-final agreement off the table in order to conduct further "internal reviews". According to Winterman, Elmessallati conducted "an internal socialization process" in which he circulated the agreement broadly to get as many Libyan government "fingerprints" on the deal as possible. His past role as architect of the EPSA IV process likely informed the effort, which garnered enough buy-in for the deal to move forward without the threat of last-minute opposition from parties who would have gone unconsulted absent his efforts. Winterman also noted that it was vital that these new EPSA deals be presented General People's Committee (Cabinet-equivalent) as "extensions" verses, as opposed to new deals that would have to be re-bid from scratch.
NEW TERMS ARE BROADLY BENEFICIAL
5. (C) The IOCs' previous deals were based on a fixed margin, meaning that companies were somewhat insulated from fluxuations in the market price of oil by receiving a fixed price for every barrel produced. The new EPSA deals, while resulting in a lower overall production share for the IOCs, removes that fixed margin, allowing companies to reap higher profits per barrel when oil prices are high. That, together with the fact that the NOC will now cover the costs for all taxes, royalties and fees, results in the IOCs making a great deal more money per barrel of oil produced. Winterman assesses that the IOCs will get their money back (i.e. signature bonuses and investment requirements) very quickly under the new EPSA deals, as greater revenue driven by high oil prices will generate rapid reimbursement of their outlays. TRIPOLI 00000563 002.2 OF 003
6. (C) An additional element of the new terms is that the ties between the IOCs and their local Libyan operating partners (Zuetina in Oxy/OMV's case) are less direct, in two distinct ways. Development plans for existing fields are now no longer run through the Libyan operators, but have been negotiated directly with the NOC under the new agreements. This means that traditional Libyan national company resistance to new investment and technologies (i.e., the much lamented tendency to keep things "the old way") have been swept aside, paving the way (with NOC approval) for more ambitious field development that should boost Libya's national production much more quickly. (Note: The NOC claims it will increase national production from a current level of 1.75 million bbl/day to 3 million bbl/day figure by 2012-15. End note.). The new EPSA framework has a substantial new anti-corruption measure that will prevent state-run companies (infamous for skimming off the top of contracts) from being involved in the tendering process. The new tendering arrangement will be between IOC and NOC representatives only, so the state-run companies have been frozen out entirely. This new arrangement creates "Joint Project Teams" that should reduce the potential for graft, while at the same time allowing for faster work rates through a streamlined decision-making and tendering process. Finally, the EPSA agreements incorporate robust IOC-provided training programs for Libyan nationals, which should help to ensure the creation of Libya's next generation of energy sector experts.
TWO SHORTCOMINGS: BOOKED RESERVES SHARE SMALLER .
7. (C) The new contracts, which feature lower production shares (now in the 10-12% range, down from 20% or higher), mean that companies can no longer "book reserves" (i.e., demonstrate to stockholders that they are contractually guaranteed to have access to a proven quantity of oil and gas) to the degree that they have in the past. This creates a new paradigm for Libya that is playing out worldwide in a growing number of oil-producing countries where the state and its energy authority are demanding tough terms for in-country IOCs. Winterman assesses that this trade-off between booked reserves and profit is creating a new system where the old rules no longer apply; the thinking of IOCs' stockholders will have to evolve to reflect the fact that their companies' stock values should be evaluated differently in an environment where reserves are harder to replace. Because this new way of thinking is still evolving, lowered production shares have the potential to hurt companies' stock prices in the short term.
8. (C) An additional consideration in this regard is the recent surge of interest in Libya on the part of non-Western IOCs (particularly from India, Japan, Russia and China), who have won the bulk of concessions in the NOC's recent acreage bid rounds. These government-owned companies are driven by the desire to book reserves to assure supply to their domestic markets in the years to come. Assuming that their exploration of Libyan acreage bears fruit in the discovery of exploitable reserves, they may find that NOC terms allow them to book less in reserves that they had hoped. With that prospect in the offing, the interest of companies primarily concerned with booking reserves may wane as they consider making the jump to producing entities.
..AND GREATER NOC INVOLVEMENT NOT A PANACEA
9. (C) Although the new agreements carry substantial benefits, the more central involvement of the NOC does not by itself guarantee more efficient operations. Winterman stressed that the NOC is still more concerned with "price over performance," and can often be a difficult sell when it comes to using the latest (more expensive) technologies to generate efficiencies and augment output. He also questioned whether the NOC would be willing and able to hold up its end of the investment burden, as it has shown reluctance to make the kind of substantial re-investments in existing fields that their $2.5 billion commitment under the Oxy deal requires. Delays are likely, particularly given the NOC's haphazard budgeting process. For example, the NOC only received approval for the current year's budget in June, and even that approval only resulted in flatlined spending along the same lines as the previous year. Also, although the NOC retains many skilled technocrats with long experience and educational ties to the U.S., that group represents a dying breed (nearing retirement age), and the NOC's TRIPOLI 00000563 003.2 OF 003 bench strength is being rapidly depleted as many of its best personnel take more lucrative opportunities in the private sector in Libya and abroad. The fact that the Eni, Petro-Canada and Oxy deals were hammered out using a common text reinforces the notion that the NOC is seeking to simplify the terms under which companies operate, in part because of its own limited institutional capacity.
NEXT ON THE BLOCK: EVERYONE ELSE
10. (C) Winterman was confident in predicting that Repsol (Spain), Wintershall (Germany) and TOTAL (France) were the next IOCs who would be forced to extend their presence in Libya via the signing of new EPSA agreements. After that, the next major set of operators will be the companies of the Oasis Group, composed of U.S. firms ConocoPhillips, Marathon and Hess. This NOC approach is reportedly on the horizon, despite the fact that the Oasis companies paid $1.8 billion in December 2005 to reclaim their former Sirte basin acreage in concert with local operator Waha (the eponymous Libyan state-run oil company that took over the fields when they left) following two years of negotiations with the NOC. The Waha-Oasis group currently produces about 350,000 bbl/day, roughly one-fifth of Libya's total oil output. Econoff has been told separately by the Country Managers of both ConocoPhillips and Marathon that senior NOC officials have hinted that a new deal with the Oasis group should be negotiated soon.
11. (C) This will present a unique challenge for the Oasis group, as the two major shareholders (CP and Marathon) reportedly have very different corporate priorities in Libya. For Marathon, whose booked Libyan production accounts for some 60% of the company's worldwide total, a reduction in production rate under an EPSA could have serious repercussions for the company's share price. On the other hand, ConocoPhillips is judged to have sufficient worldwide booked reserves that a drop in its production share would not be such a major blow, and its overall size puts it in a better position to reinvest the greater financial returns stemming from a new deal. Both would benefit from being freed from the intransigence to change shown by their counterparts in Waha (who routinely deflect their proposals for field development projects), but it may prove difficult for the Oasis partners to adopt a shared approach when the NOC begins to press in earnest for a extension of their presence.
12. (C) COMMENT: Although the concession extensions carry some positive aspects, the fact that the NOC may be prepared to reopen negotiations with the Oasis group is troubling. If the Waha consortium is forced to renegotiate after cementing a deal less than three years ago at a cost of $1.8 billion, can it - or any other IOC operating in Libya - reasonably expect that the new agreements will stand the test of time? Given the GOL's political approach to economic policymaking, as well as its penchant for extracting maximum concessions for production of its hydrocarbon resources, how long would revenue from oil that could hit $175 or $200/bbl oil be allowed to accrue to foreign companies before the GOL would (again) seek a larger cut? While the answer to that question remains to be seen, it is clear is that the recent contract extensions have set Eni, Petro-Canada and Oxy apart as leaders in the Libyan energy sector. It is expected that they will account for at least 55% of Libya's total oil production if the terms of their contracts are fulfilled. End comment.