Chevron Corp. will start looking for oil and gas off the coast of Liberia in West Africa next year.
Company executives met with Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, the president of Liberia, this week to hammer out some of the investments Chevron (NYSE: CVX) will make in the poor nation, which suffered from a long and sanguinary civil war. Sirleaf discussed pressing needs such as medical care and job training with Chevron.
Liberia, under the hump of West Africa, has given Chevron permission for deepwater exploration in the Atlantic Ocean off its coast via a 70 percent interest in three blocks there.
Chevron already has plenty of experience seeking gas and oil in Africa -- it has long worked offshore in Nigeria and also in the Cabinda enclave of Angola (which also suffered a prolonged and brutal civil war that left the country poor despite its rich resources).
Though the technical issues involved in guessing where oil might be, finding it under the ocean, and getting it out are quite daunting, working in Africa also obliges oil companies to cut deals with governments and spend money investing in their infrastructure and economies. The political issues can be as daunting as the purely technical ones.
Chevron executives who visit places like Angola don’t do so as tourists: they’re met at the airfield by heavily armed security in armored vehicles. They are driven to their meetings in secure compounds, do their business, and quit the country immediately.
Since Sirleaf’s election, Liberia has profoundly changed its political environment, but security issues always remain paramount in countries where lawlessness prevailed only a few years ago.
Chevron has cited the changes in Liberia as a reason it is willing to invest in that country.