Cairn moves in to Senegal as it eyes oil growth

OIL firm Cairn Energy yesterday added Senegal to its exploration list as it inked an agreement to buy an interest in three blocks offshore the west African country.

Cairn will acquire 65 per cent and the right to operate three blocks off the coast of Senegal, in a move to reposition itself away from Greenland. Local partner FAR and Senegal’s national oil company Petrosen will hold the remaining interests. Cairn said it is due to start drilling in Senegal at the end of year.

Cairn made its name with huge oil discoveries in India in 2004, before shifting focus to Greenland, the North Sea and Morocco. In the last few years, the firm has spent around $1.2bn (£794m) on drilling in Greenland, where it signed a partnership deal with Norway’s Statoil last year, but has so far failed to find oil. Chief executive Simon Thomson said yesterday that Cairn has always focused on exploration-led growth, emphasising that Senegal was an “exciting and unexplored” oil province for the company.

“The Senegalese acreage is an excellent strategic fit for Cairn and as an operator gives us access to a gross prospective resource potential in excess of 1.5bn barrels,” he said.

Cairn’s Senegal exploration plans came as it posted full-year pre-tax profits of $76m, up from a loss of $1.2bn at the end of 2011, helped by foreign exchange gains, which was offset against the cost of unsuccessful exploration activities.