Exxon Mobil set to start drilling as Liberia breaks free from Ebola

U.S. oil giant Exxon Mobil is reportedly set to begin drilling operations in its license offshore Liberia.

According to Reuters, which cited the company’s spokesperson, the drilling operation in Exxon Mobil’s Liberia-13 deepwater block, is expected to start in November 2016.

Exxon Mobil acquired an 80 percent stake in LB-13 back in 2013 from Canadian Overseas Petroleum, with drilling originally slated for 2014. Exxon later increased interest to 83 percent.

However, Exxon Mobil was forced to postpone its drilling plans due to the outbreak of Ebola, which led to deaths of thousands since the first cases discovered back in 2014.

The virus, often fatal, is transmitted to people from wild animals and spreads in the human population through human-to-human transmission.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the recent outbreak in west Africa, with first cases notified in March 2014, and later spreading to Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone, was the largest and most complex Ebola outbreak since the Ebola virus was first discovered in 1976. There have been more cases and deaths in that outbreak than all others combined. More than 11.000 people died.

Liberia first declared the end of Ebola human-to-human transmission on May 2015, but the virus has re-emerged three times in the country since then, a WHO statement from June 2016 said.

In the same statement, the latest update by WHO on Ebola in Liberia, WHO declared that end of the “most recent outbreak of Ebola virus disease in Liberia,” however, it then said that the risk remained of additional outbreaks from exposure to infected body fluids of survivors remains.

To remind, ExxonMobil in October 2014, prohibited non-essential personnel from traveling to the African regions most hit by the deadly disease.

At the time Exxon’ CEO Rex W. Tillerson was quoted as saying that the drilling plans would be postponed. While offshore drilling operations might be isolated from the direct exposure, there is also a need for a have shore-based support.

Exxon’s partner COPL, in June said the consortium had received assurances by the Liberian government that the oil companies would be given sufficient time to complete their work program, extending the current exploration period if necessary.

The Liberia Block 13 (LB-13), comprising more than 625,000 acres (2,500 square kilometers) is sitting offshore Liberia in water depths ranging from 250 to 10,000 feet (75 to 3,000 meters).

Offshore Energy Today Staff

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