The current hike in world oil prices has sharply increased Morocco's energy bill.The bill will reach almost 13 billion Dirhams ($1.3 billion) this year against 8.7 billion Dirhams ($870 million) last year, said Amina Benkhadra, general manager of the National Board of Oil Research and Exploitation.
Benkhadra told the Liberation daily that Morocco, which is not an oil-producing country, was severely hit by the hike in oil prices as it imports 95% of the 9 million tons of oil needs each year.
She said prospects of oil discovery are "promising'' and said that would alleviate the oil bill burden. Benkhadra, who also heads the Board of Mining Research and Participation, said the Iourir gold mine discovered recently in southern Morocco would start operating next year. The mine was sold to Morocco's largest private corporation, ONA.
Last month, Lone Star Energy Corp., an offshoot of Skidmore Inc., announced the discovery of oil and gas reserves at Talsint in southeastern Morocco, assessed at 1.5 to 2 billion barrels, and 100,000 barrelsof oil reserve at the Sidi Belkacem I well.
Besides Talsint, the American firm has licenses to drill in Loukous, Labrouj, Safi, and the Essouira Atlantic regions over an area of 37,000 square kilometers. Reserves in these areas are estimated at 10 to 12 billion barrels. Lone Star is bound to Morocco by an investment contract of $30 to $35 million.
But the situation changed with the discovery of the Talsint fields, and the amount is expected to increase to $150 or $160 million. The hike in oil prices prompted Moroccan authorities to increase the price of petroleum products by 4.8 to 10.8 percent.
The price of a liter of diesel went up by 9.3 percent to stand at 5.76 DH/liter ($1 = 10DH), ordinary petrol was increased by 9.8 percent (8.65DH/liter) and high grade petrol by 10.8 percent (9.05 DH/liter). The price of industrial fuel went up by 4.8 percent to stand at more than 2,301 DH per ton.
The move angered several professional associations, including the road transporters union, which called a strike on Monday and Tuesday, paralyzing much of the country. –(Albawaba-MEBG)
© 2000 Mena Report (www.menareport.com )