OpenOil repository: 524 oil contracts from 56 countries, one click away

(MEDIA RELEASE)

BERLIN, Tuesday, November 11 – OpenOil and its partners on Monday launched the world’s first comprehensive archive of oil contracts. Some 385 host government contracts from 54 countries are now available with one click.

The repository includes contracts which govern oil production in many countries where disclosure has largely been unknown, such as Algeria, Angola, Chad, China, Egypt, India, Israel, Kazakhstan, Syria, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Ukraine and Yemen. All contracts had previously been put in public domain but were scattered across scores of websites and buried in corporate filings. PWYP Canada outline how corporate disclosures were mined in a release announcing the project’s joint findings.

Over 100 contracts in the repository were filed by oil companies to Canadian and US financial regulators. In an effort funded by the Shuttleworth Foundation, the OpenOil team led by Don Hubert and its partners, PWYP Canada and the African Network for Centers of Investigative Journalism (ANCIR), unearthed them by text mining several million documents across the regulator websites going back as far as 1995.

“It is time to turn the way we look at contract transparency on its head”, said Johnny West, Director of OpenOil. “Instead of thinking of a small number of published contracts which is gradually increasing, we should map the total universe of contracts signed by governments, and work backwards from there. The repository is a small step towards contract disclosure as standard practice.”

Along with the repository itself, OpenOil has proposed a draft convention to name contract files so they can be easily exchanged between hundreds of organisations working on governance of the extractive industries.

“All contracts that govern publicly owned natural resources – and the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people – should be open to everyone to examine,” said Helen Turvey, Executive Director of the Shuttleworth Foundation. “This curation is important not just for its immediate practical value. It proposes a system-level approach under an open data standard, both of which are key to real transformation.”

The newly exposed contracts are particularly promising in Africa, where projects from Angola, Chad and Tanzania are among those newly brought to light.

“Our network of more than one dozen newsrooms across Africa are constantly grappling to understand how the oil economy operates at a political, financial and other level,” said Khadija Sharife, investigations editor at ANCIR. “These newly unearthed contracts from countries like Angola, Egypt and Chad will be invaluable for investigations.

The repository includes contracts relating to other developments in the global oil industry, such as coal bed methane projects in China, offshore gas in India, and Israel’s rapid transition to major gas producer in the Eastern Mediterranean. Contracts from Egypt, Yemen, Algeria, Kurdistan and Syria also shed rare light on the Middle Eastern oil economy.

OpenOil collected the contracts as part of a broader initiative to publish financial models of oil projects in Chad, Cambodia and Kurdistan, scheduled for later in the month. A three-day hackathon to mine corporate disclosures for richer information about oil reserves, production and costs will take place in Berlin in January with OpenCorporates, ContentMine and the Natural Resource Governance Institute.

OpenOil publishes open data on the world’s extractive industries, including sourced maps of multinational affiliate structures. Its book How to Read and Understand Oil Contracts is at over 100,000 downloads, and it has published 19 country-level reference guides in five languages.

Shuttleworth Foundation invests in social innovators who are open at heart, have a fresh perspective on addressing challenges and have a very clear idea of their role in bringing about positive change.

PWYP-Canada is the Canadian coalition of Publish What You Pay, a global network of over 800 civil society organizations united in their call for oil, gas and mining revenues to form the basis for development and improve the lives of citizens in resource-rich countries.

The African Network of Centers for Investigative Reporting is a coalition of the continent’s best muckraking newsrooms and centers.

For more information contact:

Johnny West

at johnny dot west at openoil dot net

johnny.west@openoil.net

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