Production from the upstream oil industry, mainly from offshore fields, is an important contributor to the DRC’s economy. Oil production in 2003 was estimated at 22,000 barrels per day. Proved reserves have been estimated at 1.538 billion barrels (January 2002). There is one oil refinery in the country with a capacity of 15,000 barrels per day. At present it is operating at about 50 percent capacity. There are plans to upgrade the refinery to 50,000 barrels per day, but this is dependent on finding foreign investment and a complete resolution to the political instability.
Exploration for oil and gas in the DRC began in the 1960s along the country’s Atlantic Ocean coastline at the estuary of the Congo river, which is located between the prolific offshore production region of northern Angola and its oil-rich enclave of Cabinda. The country became an oil producer in 1976 when its offshore fields came on stream. Its entire crude output is exported because the crude characteristics are incompatible with the configuration of the country’s only refinery.
The Ministry of Mines and Energy regulates the industry, while a new State company, La Congolaise des Hydrocarbures (Cohydro) was formed in 1999 to take responsibility for all activities related to the oil sector, from exploration and production to refining.
The DRC has seven producing offshore gasfields, most of which is flared. Some of the gas is re-injected and a portion is used in gas-lift operations. Proved reserves have been estimated at 104.8 billion cubic metres (January 2002). Two major three-year projects have been initiated in an attempt to increase production levels both onshore and offshore.
Various foreign companies are operating in partnership with the government in the upstream oil sector. The most significant being a consortium operating the offshore concessions which includes Chevron, Teikoku Oil of Japan, and Union Oil of California. The Ministry of Mines and Energy is updating petroleum legislature to supervise and control the awarding of exploration permits and production concessions.
- Oil production: 21,090 bbl/day (2004)
- Oil exports: 21,090 bbl/day (2006 est.)
- Oil proved reserves: 1.538 billion bbl (1 January 2002)
- Natural gas proved reserves: 991.1 million cu m (1 January 2005 est.)
- Congo Gulf Oil Company (owned by Chevron of the United States (50%), Teikoku Oil Company Ltd of Japan (32.3%), and Unocal Corporation, which merged with Chevron in 2005, (17.7%)] produced approximately 17,000 bbl/d of crude petroleum from seven offshore wells in 2000. Congo Gulf Oil accounted for about 60% of national petroleum production.
- Perenco operates six onshore fields, with an output of approximately 20,000 barrels per day. Perenco is also the operator of DRC's offshore concession and terminal - assets it acquired from Chevron in 2004.
- Other companies that were operating in Congo (Kinshasa) included Ocelot International Ltd and Japan National Oil Corporation.
- Tullow Oil signed a production Sharing Agreement (PSA) in July 2006 to gain a 48.5% operated interest in Blocks I and II in the prospective Albertine Graben. Blocks I and II cover some 6,500 sq km over the onshore and offshore acreage in Congo (DRC) part of the Albertine Graben which extends into neighbouring Uganda. The planned work programme comprises a number of technical studies in preparation for the acquisition of 400 km of 2D seismic data during the first licence period. Tullow has interests (50-100%) in all three blocks comprising the Ugandan part of the graben where recent exploration has recently proven the existence of a working hydrocarbon system. Five oil discoveries in the Albertine Basin in Uganda have significantly enhanced the prospectivity of the region. As a result an aggressive exploration and appraisal programme is planned for Uganda and Congo (DRC).
- Heritage Oil Corporation signed a Production Sharing Agreement in the DRC in July 2006 for a 39.5% interest in Blocks I and II in the prospective Albert Basin. Blocks I and II cover over 6,000 km2 over the onshore and offshore acreage in the DRC part of the Albert Basin that extends into neighbouring Uganda.