BCLP Leads Successful Licensing Round Culminating in Signing of Petroleum License between The Gambia Government and BP

May 1, 2019

Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner (BCLP), appointed in 2017 by the African Legal Support Facility (ALSF), has been lead adviser in assisting The Gambia Government with the review of its legal and fiscal framework for petroleum projects and the design and implementation of the 2018 Gambia Petroleum Licensing Round. April 30, The Gambia Government signed a petroleum license with BP for the offshore block A1. 

After consulting with the ALSF and BCLP, The Gambia Ministry of Petroleum and Energy decided, in October 2017, to cancel single negotiations with selected international oil and gas companies (IOCs) and instead to prepare and launch a competitive licensing round for the existing petroleum blocks in The Gambia. 

The multidiscipline project team was led by BCLP Head of Africa Energy and Infrastructure Practice Alexander Sarac and included Senior Associate Simon Buchler and Junior Associate Eleanor Morris; Gambian leading law firms Amie Bensouda & Co and Senghore Law Practice; financial oil and gas consultancy OpenOil; and independent technical consultant Richard Weightman.

In November 2017, the minister of Petroleum and Energy at The Gambia Government, the Hon. Fara Sanyang, announced the launch of the licensing round at an event hosted by BCLP in London. Shortlisted international oil companies were invited to submit bids in September 2018 and the proposals received were evaluated by The Gambia Ministry of Petroleum and Energy, with the support of BCLP, Senghore Law Practice, OpenOil and Richard Weightman, with BP identified as the highest-ranked bidder for petroleum block A1.

Due to the transparent and well-structured licensing round process, the negotiations with BP on the license concluded within two months and the process culminated in the signing of the petroleum license with BP on April 30 by the Hon. Fara Sanyang.  

BCLP’s Sarac said at the signing ceremony: “We are grateful to the ALSF for allowing us to work with the ALSF team and the government on the license agreements and for having the foresight to support the implementation of a licensing round in The Gambia, which achieved an outstanding result. I am personally grateful to the Hon. Fara Sanyang for his leadership and guidance, PS Lamin for his continuous energy in driving the process forward and Commissioner Jerreh Barrow for his vision to implement best practice in The Gambia and who restlessly worked on making this licensing round a success. I would also like to pay the highest respect to the government negotiating team that worked extremely hard over the last 20 months to make this happen. I would like to thank Mr. Stephen Karangizi, director of the ALSF, and Ms. Nchimunya D. Ndulo ALSF (legal counsel and task manager for this project), our local counsel in The Gambia, Johnny West and Ric Weightman, as well as my team members Simon Buchler and Eleanor Morris, that were all instrumental in building capacity within the government and providing the additional expertise required to successfully award the license to BP.”

Minister of Petroleum and Energy, the Hon. Fara Sanyang said: “Over the last 20 months we were able to build a strong team within the government and to implement a process that created fairness and transparency in the petroleum sector. The result is that with BP we have one of the most prestigious and capable IOCs investing in The Gambia and a license with terms and conditions that reflect international best practice and that has better commercial terms than most licenses in the region. We are grateful for the ALSF and BCLP for their support and look forward to further developing the sector with the capacity that was built during the time of their support.”

Director of OpenOil, Johnny West stated: “A review of the available data of other licenses and production sharing contracts in the region shows that the BP A1 license represents amongst the highest government take in the region. This shows that a well prepared and executed licensing round can generate tremendous value for governments in Africa and we are very pleased to have been working with the ALSF, BCLP and the government of The Gambia on this licensing round.”

Jerreh Barrow, the commissioner for petroleum of The Gambia, explained that: “We are grateful for the excellent support received from the ALSF and BCLP, OpenOil, Ric Weightman and our Gambian lawyers and are happy to have signed a license with terms better than most in the region. If the exploration activities are successful and the government and BP will move into production of hydrocarbons, the terms of the license will assure that the income generated for the government will have transformative impact for the future and the next generation of our people.”

Ms. Nchimunya Ndulo, task manager of the ALSF for this project, stated on behalf of the director of the ALSF, at the signing ceremony: “We commend the government of The Gambia, led by the Hon. Fafa Sanyang, for the transparent and structured manner in which it conducted the process, and its vision of conducting this process in accordance with the industry’s best practices. We would also like to commend the government for the inclusive manner in which it conducted the process through consultations with and the representation of all government stakeholders....Although the petroleum sector is in its nascent stages in The Gambia, the ALSF recognizes that the future for the sector is promising and holds hope for bringing good revenue streams that could contribute to the economic development of The Gambia and have a transformative impact on the future of The Gambia.”