Kosmos with extensive seismic studies off occupied Western Sahara

Kosmos Energy and Cairn Energy have over the last weeks undertaken another round of seismic studies offshore Western Sahara. The vessels' movements indicate the location for a new possible drilling site.
Published: 23.03 - 2017 21:00Printer version    
The photo above shows the BGP Prospector the last time it was engaged in seismic for Kosmos. It was taken in Las Palmas port in July 2013.

The US company Kosmos Energy, in partnership with Scottish Cairn Energy, two years ago undertook the first drilling for hydrocarbons ever done in occupied Western Sahara. The territory has been illegally occupied by Morocco since 1975.

On 2 March 2015, the two companies announced that the drilling had confirmed the potential for oil, but that the operation did not result in the finding it had hoped for.

"We will analyze the information gathered from CB-1 [exploration well] and integrate it with the additional 3D seismic data we recently acquired to refine our exploration plan, including deciding on the location and timing of a potential second well", Kosmos expressed at the time.

The current movements of four vessels off Western Sahara, led by Chinese vessel BGP Prospector, shows that Kosmos is currently planning more drilling. A UN Legal Opinion in 2002 stated that any further oil exploration in Western Sahara can only take place after first seeking the consent of the people of the territory. Kosmos has systematically misrepresented that conclusion.

"Kosmos [...] maintain(s) that this contract is in conformity with my 2002 legal opinion. Regrettably, it is not."

Hans Corell, former UN Legal Counsel, author of the UN legal opinion which Kosmos Energy claims to follow - and which the company fundamentally misrepresents, in International Judicial Monitor of 23 February 2015.
From around 5 or 6 March 2017, Kosmos has undertaken another round of seismic studies on its block. The movements indicate where Kosmos believes it has the biggest shot when carrying out another drilling operation.

As of today, 23 March 2017, the survey is still taking place.

The seismic study has been located around a very limited, highly defined area. The movement of BGP Prospector has so far shown a tight loop of a reciprocal survey track, generally to the south of the well site from 2015.

WSRW wrote on 15 February 2017 that Glencore was undertaking a seismic study. This was done with the same handful of vessels that is now working on what is a Kosmos Energy-led exploration. Just prior to starting the Glencore study, the vessels passed over the Kosmos Energy area that they later returned to. Intrigued by the movements of the vessels, Polisario made immediate contact with Kosmos on 1 February 2017. The correspondence, including the Kosmos response of 15 February 2017, was posted on the propaganda website of Kosmos Energy.

This is the third round of seismic studies undertaken by Kosmos and Cairn. If more drilling is to take place, the most likely is that the company Atwood Oceanics would carry out such operation, as it often does for Kosmos. Several investors have blacklisted Kosmos and Cairn for taking part in Morocco's violation of international law in the territory it occupies.

The BGP Prospector is accompanied by three vessels: Jan van Gent (Vanuatu flagged, IMO 8410093), Geo Service 1 (Singapore flagged, IMO 9621546) and 7 Waves (Panama flagged, IMO 9714185).

Timeline - Kosmos in occupied Western Sahara
  • 29 October 2004. Kosmos Energy partners with Kerr-McGee for the ‘Boujdour block’, with a 30% share.
  • 7 November 2005. Kosmos Energy first states that it plans to drill off the coast of Western Sahara.
  • 2006. Kerr-McGee leaves Western Sahara. Kosmos Energy signs an agreement for the operatorship of the ‘Boujdour block’.
  • 2009. Kosmos Energy commissions 2D seismic services from the Dutch company Fugro NV. Saharawis demonstrate. Fugro later announces it "has decided to abstain from any further involvement in Western Sahara until the political situation has been resolved".
  • July 2013. BGP Prospector carried out seismic studies.
  • 25 October 2013. Kosmos signs an agreement with Capricorn Exploration & Development Company Limited, a
    wholly-owned subsidiary of Cairn Energy PLC to partner on the Boujdour project. Kosmos announces that it has identified three prospects, the largest of these, called Gargaa, at 2135 meters depth. The name of the block is changed to ‘Cap Boujdour Offshore’.
  • February 2014. A Kosmos company presentation states that the drilling ship Atwood Achiever will be used in Boujdour exploration-license area.
  • March 2014. Aker Solutions AS, which had been responsible for building and installing the drilling system on the Atwood Achiever, states that “if we had known that the equipment would be used in Western Sahara, we would not have signed this agreement”. The company cancelled the maintenance agreement it had with the drillship.
  • May 2014. BGP Prospector carried out a 3D study on the same block.
  • Dec 2014-Feb 2015. The drillship Atwood Achiever carries out drilling for Kosmos on the block.
  • June 2016. One of Kosmos Energy's biggest owners, Norway's sovereign wealth fund, divests from Kosmos for operating in breach of fundamental ethical norms.
  • March 2017. Kosmos commissions yet another seismic study employing the BGP Prospector.
  • October 2017. Kosmos possibly with another round of seismic studies.
  • 6 February 2018. ONHYM announces Kosmos' departure.



    Morocco occupies the major part of its neighbouring country, Western Sahara. Entering into business deals with Moroccan companies or authorities in the occupied territories gives an impression of political legitimacy to the occupation. It also gives job opportunities to Moroccan settlers and income to the Moroccan government. Western Sahara Resource Watch demands foreign companies leave Western Sahara until a solution to the conflict is found.
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