Maldives National Oil Company seeks assistance with oil exploration

The Maldives National Oil Company (MNOC) has revealed that it will begin advertising the country as a destination for oil exploration as early as April, local media has reported.

MNOC Managing Director Ahmed Muneez told the press yesterday that the recent release of a seismic reports – initiated in 1991 by Royal Dutch Shell – had prompted the state-owned company to seek further foreign assistance.

“We have contacted a Norwegian company and a German company to help us better understand the findings of the study. Based on this report, we’re hopeful of advertising the Maldives as a new destination of oil exploration,” Haveeru quoted Muneez as saying.

He explained that an outside company would be hired to conduct a global advertising campaign in order to market the country as an oil source.

Prior to last year’s presidential elections, both the Jumhooree Party candidate Gasim Ibrahim and – eventual victor – Progressive Party of Maldives Abdulla Yameen promised oil exploration to supplement the country’s tourism industry.

The national oil company was formed in 2003 in order to assist the government’s attempts to diversify the economy, which still relies on tourism for 70-80 percent of GDP. The company’s activities include making preparations for the country’s third attempt at oil exploration.

“The fact that two leading oil exploration companies in the world had invested in exploration drilling in the Maldives, keeps up the glimmer of hope for commercial success of oil and gas exploration in the Maldives,” explains the MNOC.

“Today, with the remarkable improvement of technology in the area of oil and exploration such as three or four dimensional seismic survey systems etc., the Maldives National Oil Company is hopeful that oil or gas can be discovered in Maldives.”

Better known for its pristine beaches and clear waters – and more recently its vulnerability to climate change and commitment to carbon neutrality – the search for oil in the Maldives predates its famous tourism industry.

Information available on the MNOC website explains that the French oil company Elf Aquitaine embarked on exploratory projects in the Maldives as early as 1968. After experimental wells were drilled in 1976, it was discovered that the deposits at the site were not economically viable.

A second attempt at exploration came fifteen years later, with Shell conducting seismic surveys and drilling an exploration well in Ari atoll. Again, current market prices meant that the project was deemed financially unappealing.

Tourism Minister Ahmed Adeeb has previously told Minivan News that Maldives’ environmental image and commitments are no obstacles to developing of an oil industry.

The Maldives is “a big nation, and places not in marine protected zones or tourism areas could be explored for oil, like in the less developed north,” he explained.

The Maldives has previously been listed by the UN as one of the world’s most oil-addicted nations,  importing US$488 million in petroleum products in 2012 – equivalent to around one fifth of GDP.