Heritage plants UK flag in Libya with takeover of Sahara Oil

Heritage Oil staked its claim to Libya's vast hydrocarbon reserves yesterday with the $19.5m (£12.7m) acquisition of a small oil and gas services provider based in Benghazi.

The FTSE-250 explorer, thought to be the first foreign oil company into Libya after the uprising, will use the takeover of Sahara Oil Services as a platform to explore Africa's largest petroleum reserves.

Heritage, which entered Benghazi and set up a base in May, said the acquisition of 51 per cent of Sahara will give it the necessary permits and licences to carry out oil field services in Libya.

More importantly, it will give it the right to bid for lucrative licences to explore for and produce oil and gas.

The Jersey-based company has a history of moving early into unstable, oil-rich regions that pose significant personal and operational risks, such as Uganda and Kurdistan.

Heritage has assembled a team of "fixers" to call on to help negotiate the often hazardous geopolitical terrain it must conquer in its quest for oil in war-torn regions.

John Holmes, a former SAS commando who holds a Military Cross, is understood to have been smoothing the company's path in Libya.

Mr Holmes worked with Heritage chief executive Tony Buckingham – Jersey's richest resident and a former partner at the South African mercenary provider Executive Outcomes, whose first exposure to the oil industry was as a North Sea diver. Heritage insisted Mr Holmes "is not a member of staff or an employee of ours" – but pointedly refused to deny that he had worked for the company on a consultancy basis.

Paul Atherton, Heritage finance director, said that in the past few months the company had held discussions with a range of key participants in the Libyan oil industry such as senior members of the National Transitional Council (NTC) and the National Oil Company.

"To the best of my knowledge we were the first international oil company to go into Libya and the others have only started to come back in the past three or four weeks," Mr Atherton said.

"We've been there all summer, in discussions and negotiations, and these continue." Libya has 44 billion barrels of proven oil reserves, making it the biggest known resource in Africa and the ninth largest in the world, according to the International Energy Agency.

As the NTC consolidates its grip on the country the big oil majors are circling. Italy's Eni and France's Total are partially back up and running.

BP and Shell, which are both at the stage of exploring for oil rather than producing it, have yet to return to the country since evacuating staff during the uprising.

Both are looking to return and are in discussions with the NTC.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Neil Pavier: Management Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Neil Pavier: Are you looking for your next opportunity for ...

Sheridan Maine: Commercial Accountant

£45,000 - £55,000: Sheridan Maine: Are you a newly qualified ACA/ACCA/ACMA qua...

Laura Norton: Project Accountant

£50,000 - £60,000: Laura Norton: Are you looking for an opportunity within a w...

Day In a Page

Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine
Letterman's final Late Show: Laughter, but no tears, as David takes his bow after 33 years

Laughter, but no tears, as Letterman takes his bow after 33 years

Veteran talkshow host steps down to plaudits from four presidents
Ivor Novello Awards 2015: Hozier wins with anti-Catholic song 'Take Me To Church' as John Whittingdale leads praise for Black Sabbath

Hozier's 'blasphemous' song takes Novello award

Singer joins Ed Sheeran and Clean Bandit in celebration of the best in British and Irish music
Tequila gold rush: The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product

Join the tequila gold rush

The spirit has gone from a cheap shot to a multi-billion pound product
12 best statement wallpapers

12 best statement wallpapers

Make an impact and transform a room with a conversation-starting pattern
Paul Scholes column: Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?

Paul Scholes column

Does David De Gea really want to leave Manchester United to fight it out for the No 1 spot at Real Madrid?