Niger Republic to pump oil in 2011

Niger will start producing and refining oil in 2011, a year ahead of schedule, the government and its Chinese partners said, despite Chinese concerns about the lack of financing from the West African state. Niger and China’s CNPC struck a $5 billion deal in 2008 to produce oil from the Agadem block in uranium-producing Niger’s east, where reserves are estimated at 295 million barrels. The deal also includes the construction of a 20,000 barrels a day refinery in Zinder for local and regional consumption. “Next year, Nigeriens will be able to enjoy the fuel and gas produced in the refinery in Zinder,” Souleymane Abba, Niger’s minister for mines and energy, said on state television late on Wednesday, after a visit to the oil block. Agadem is 1,400 km (870 miles) east of Niamey, with Zinder roughly half way between the two, near the border with Nigeria.

“There is the Agadem block, which we have explored, there are the other permits which could have potential. All this means Niger is closer than ever to being a major oil producer and oil will be the second motor of our economy,” Abba said. Niger is hoping to become the world’s No. 2 producer of uranium when Areva’s Imouraren mine comes into production. But start-up date has been delayed to 2013-14 and the mine workers have had to evacuate the region due attacks by al Qaeda-linked gunmen. Abba travelled to the oil block and the refinery with Fu Jinlin, the managing director of CNPC’s local subsidiary, CNODC. “Work on the refinery will be completed on time,” Jinkin said. “But with regard to the financing of the refinery, we have spent lots of money but we are still waiting for the contributions from the Niger government.” Despite its uranium wealth, Niger remains one of the world’s poorest countries, saw its government ousted in a coup in February and also had to tackle a food crisis this year. According to the deal struck between Niger and CNPC, 60 percent of the oil refined at the SORAZ refinery in Zinder will be sold in Niger, with the remaining 40 percent destined for export.