Norwegian independent PetroNor E&P has edged closer to agreement with the government of Senegal to retain deep offshore acreage, approaching resolution of a long-running dispute before the International Centre for the Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID).


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Oslo-listed PetroNor claims title to the Rufisque Offshore Deep and Senegal Offshore South blocks, both of which the Energy Ministry attempted to revoke over alleged failure to meet exploration obligations.

ICSID proceedings had been adjourned on 4 May until 2 November 2020 but, “although close to the end of the suspension agreement, both parties continue to work towards an amicable solution,” PetroNor said this week.

PetroNor chief executive Knut Sovold is understood to have visited the Senegal capital of Dakar last week to ensure continuation of the "progressive dialogue" and to negotiate an end to the arbitration process, which has proved costly to both sides.

Upstream has been told by an informed source that the Covid-19 pandemic has severely impacted the ability of both parties to conduct out-of-court talks and that, consequently, the 2 November deadline will be pushed back to end-December or early 2021, buying both more time.

PetroNor's case before the Washington-based tribunal was initiated on 11 July 2018 by African Petroleum, before a merger that resulted in a name change to PetroNor E&P.

PetroNor initiated a similar action before ICSID, contesting revocation of title to blocks A1 and A4 offshore neighbouring Gambia. This culminated last month in an out-of-court settlement whereby PetroNor retained operatorship of A4 under a 30-year lease, but relinquished claims to A1 which had already been re-allocated to BP.

Industry sources have speculated that a similar accord may be struck in Senegal, enabling PetroNor to retain title to the Senegal Offshore Deep block off Casamance in exchange for surrendering the Rufisque Offshore Deep, since re-allocated to French supermajor Total.

PetroNor is a 50:50 venture jointly held by Norway's NOR Energy and Petromal, the oil investment subsidiary of Abu Dhabi's National Holding.