London-listed junior Wildcat Petroleum has been awarded a non-exclusive licence to evaluate 20 blocks offshore Sierra Leone.

The move highlights an uptick in activity in Africa’s E&P scene on the back of higher oil and gas prices and as governments on the continent try to encourage explorers to their shores.

Wildcat said it has signed as reconnaissance permit agreement with the industry regulator — the Petroleum Directorate of Sierra Leone — covering 24,000 square kilometres.

This permit grants a non-exclusive right to conduct reconnaissance operations for six months from the start of the agreement.

Wildcat will carry out a desktop to identify promising blocks and enter talks with the regulator over accessing these blocks.

However, the company pointed out it does not have pre-emptive rights over any of the acreage covered by the permit.

Focus area: the 20 blocks offshore Sierra Leone over which Wildcat Petroleum has secured a reconnaissance permit are marked in red Photo: MAP WILDCAT PETROLEUM

The study area covers acreage holding the Mercury and Jupiter non-commercial oil discoveries made by Anadarko Petroleum.

Wildcat noted that other companies have also drilled exploration wells in Sierra Leonean waters, highlighting that of eight wells drilled offshore three were sub-commercial discoveries and three had hydrocarbon shows.

Wildcat chairman Mandhir Singh said: “The extent of the blocks covered by the Sierra Leone deal indicates (our) ambition and the size of assets it is trying to secure.”

“Although the Sierra Leone endeavour is an exploration project, the Company’s top priority is to a secure a stake in a producing asset(s) with resources in the billions of barrels,” he added.

The company’s exploration targets in the Sierra Leone basin appear to be Cretaceous prospects that may have analogies with the huge discoveries on the conjugate margin of Guyana and Suriname.

Wildcat’s board members include Glyn Roberts, a veteran of Africa's E&P scene with strong relationships in East Africa in places such as Madagascar and Mozambique, while Chris Matchette-Downes, another East Africa specialist, is its geological advisor.

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