Oil exploration in Madagascar dates back to the start of the 20th century after geologists discovered heavy oil rich sedimentary basins in the West of the island. Five have been identified, and plans are underway to develop 40 extra offshore and 100 onshore oil blocks. The three most important onshore basins, located along the western coast, share a common geological history with oil-rich Angola and Nigeria. Madagascar\u2019s oil potential \u201cMadagascar is part of East Africa\u2019s oil province. There is great oil potential in this province, and so there is a strong chance that we will also find oil in Madagascar,\u201d says Bonaventure Rasoanaivo, General Manager of the Office of National Mining and Strategic Resources (OMNIS), a state company founded in 1976 which manages Madagascar\u2019s oil resources. OMNIS handles all the geological data required for oil exploration. We visit its drill core library, home to hundreds of samples collected from Madagascar\u2019s soils. \u201cThe whole point of this core depot is that we can see the samples, physically. In other data centres abroad, all you have are digital files. Here, it\u2019s tangible, you can touch them,\u201d says Tolojanahary Randriamiarantsoa, head of the Database Department at OMNIS. Companies interested in Madagascar\u2019s oil can have access to data on the samples from research conducted at the OMNIS laboratory. According to lab technician Mihaja Manantsoa, \u201cThese samples come directly from the sites. We treat them here in the laboratory \u2013 we extract the micro-fossils, which we use to date the sedimentary formations in order to better understand their paleoenvironment. So they are crucial to oil exploration.\u201d How much oil in Madagascar? It\u2019s difficult to say how much oil Madagascar may harbour. Research is still underway, but authorities believe the island\u2019s reserves could hold the equivalent of at least 1.500 billion barrels. For a long time, extraction costs for the kind of oil found in Madagascar, known as heavy oil, were too high to make it worthwhile. But this could soon change. Heavy oil to fuel power plants and pave roads The country\u2019s leading oil company, Madagascar Oil, has been extracting petroleum from the island\u2019s main field of Tsimiroro for the past year. Plans are underway to use it to fuel power plants on the island and even for road paving.