Democratic Republic of Congo's eastern Lake Albert oil blocks could hold two billion barrels of oil reserves but any confirmed discovery will require major investments for further development, said the head of the company operating there.
The potential for big finds along Congo's eastern border has grown since UK-based Tullow Oil struck oil on the Ugandan side of Lake Albert in 2006. France's Total and Chinese national oil company CNOOC also operate there and Uganda's government has estimated reserves at 3.5 billion barrels.
Speaking on the sidelines of an oil conference in Congo's capital Kinshasa, Giovanni Pedaci, general manager for Oil of DR Congo, said the company completed a second phase of seismic data acquisition on Congo's Lake Albert blocks last month.
"We need to drill down to be sure, but we have measured the volume of structures under the lake and it is very high - two billion barrels," he said.
Oil of DR Congo operates on Congo's blocks 1 and 2 on behalf of Foxwhelp and Caprikat, two companies incorporated in the British Virgin Islands which were granted five-year concessions on the blocks in 2010 after they were withdrawn from Tullow.
"These structures may be full of water or oil. We will drill next year to find out. But they are mirror images of structures on the Ugandan side of the lake, which have oil," Pedaci said.
Resource-rich but impoverished Congo currently produces just 25,000 barrels per day from onshore and offshore oil fields in western coastal areas.
"We need a lot of investment to undertake the project. We need two, three, four billion dollars," Pedaci said "Our shareholders are looking for partners to share the investment and the risk."
Foxwhelp and Caprickat are both owned by Khulubuse Zuma, the nephew of South African President Jacob Zuma.
Pedaci said that any oil discovered by the company on Congo's side of Lake Albert would be exported east via a pipeline through Uganda and Kenya to the Indian Ocean.
Tullow and its partners have already voiced plans to build a pipeline from Lake Albert to Africa's eastern coast.