Israeli company obtains exclusive rights to explore for oil and gas in Saharan waters

Morocco normalised relations with Israel at the end of 2020
PHOTO/MOHSSEN ASSANIMOG

PHOTO/MOHSSEN ASSANIMOG  -  

The Moroccan National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines (ONHYM) has signed an agreement with the company Ratio Gibraltar, a subsidiary of the Israeli oil company Ratio Petroleum. Through this agreement, Ratio Petroleum has obtained an exclusive licence to explore for oil and gas off the coast of Dakhla, a city located in Western Sahara. The Israeli company will carry out geological, geophysical, and geochemical research and studies in the area, as reported by Energía News, an Israeli news portal specialising in the field.

Ratio Petroleum will hold 100% of the oil and gas exploration rights in an area of 109,000 square kilometres. Through its subsidiary, Ratio Gibraltrar, it will be able to search for hydrocarbons in shallow and deep waters up to 3,000 metres. The agreement between the Moroccan institution and the Israeli company will be in force for a period of eight years, extendable for up to two more years if natural resources are discovered. 

Campo petrolífero
REUTERS/SERGEI KARPUKHIN - Oil field

If oil or gas is found, Morocco will receive 7 per cent of the hydrocarbons discovered more than 200 metres underwater, with a production of more than 500,000 tonnes, and 3.5 per cent of natural gas for a production of more than 500,000 cubic metres, in accordance with national laws.

The Ratio Petroleum group owns 15% of Israel's largest exploration field. It is also developing projects in Guyana, Suriname and the Philippines, according to Moroccan media Le360. 

Gatos de bombeo operan frente a una plataforma de perforación en un campo petrolero
REUTERS/NICK OXFORD - Pumping jacks operate in front of a drilling platform in an oilfield

"Morocco has an extensive history of hydrocarbon exploration along the ocean coast, but in relation to the vast economic area of Moroccan waters, it is still a preliminary activity," the Israeli company said, as reported by El Español.

"There are a number of sedimentary basins with potential for active petroleum systems along the coasts of the Atlantic Ocean. Geological Provinces 1 are divided by an extensive salt basin that is mainly located north of the Canary Islands," it added

puerto tanger
PHOTO/AFP - Moroccan port
Morocco and Israel strengthen their bilateral relations

Since Rabat's decision in December 2020 to resume diplomatic ties with Jerusalem, ties between the two countries have intensified in several fields, such as cybersecurity and defence. In July, General Mostafa Rabii, director of the Cyber Security Directorate of the Moroccan Department of National Defence, signed an agreement with his Israeli counterpart to collaborate in the field of cybersecurity. Moreover, the two countries recently agreed to produce kamikaze drones. 

Imagen de dron
AFP/ETHAN MILLER - Drone image

In this regard, Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz and Finance Minister Avigdor Lieberman are expected to visit the Kingdom in the near future. As The Jerusalem Post reports, Gantz will sign defence cooperation agreements, including projects to develop a Moroccan arms industry.

In addition to defence, there are other sectors in which Morocco and Israel will make progress, "such as, for example, technologies. A very important field for the Moroccan economy", Lior Haiat, spokesman for the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs, told EFE. Several Israeli airlines have also launched regular routes to Moroccan airports. 

Vuelo de Israir entre Tel Aviv y Marrakech
File photo - Israir flight between Tel Aviv and Marrakech

Diplomatic relations, on the other hand, are excellent. Nasser Bourita maintains close contacts with his Hebrew partner, Yair Lapid. The two ministers have agreed, among other things, to officially open embassies in each capital. Israel has already announced its representative in the Maghreb country, diplomat David Govrin. Morocco, for its part, has yet to choose its ambassador to Israel.

In the energy sector, it is worth mentioning the virtual meeting held earlier this year between Aziz Rabbah, former Moroccan Minister of Energy, Mines and Environment, and his Israeli, Sudanese, Bahraini, Emirati, Egyptian and US counterparts. During the videoconference, they discussed research and energy development.  

Los ministros de Asuntos Exteriores de Marruecos e Israel intercambian los acuerdos firmados.
File photo - Moroccan and Israeli foreign ministers exchange signed agreements.

Rabat is also developing projects in this field with other countries, including the UK. The British company Xlinks recently announced the construction of a solar and wind complex in southern Morocco.