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PETRO GLOBAL NEWS – ExxonMobil has delayed the startup of its first offshore Liberia exploration well as concerns mount over the Ebola outbreak ravaging western Africa.

An ExxonMobil spokesman told the Houston Chronicle that the planned late-2014 start date at offshore Liberia Block 13 will be pushed back because of “safety, health and logistical issues related to Ebola.”

The company did not disclose a timetable for re-starting work on the project.

ExxonMobil acquired an 80 percent operating stake in the block in 2012 from Canadian Overseas Petroleum (COP). COP holds the remaining 20 percent stake.

The block covers over 625,000 acres in water depths ranging from 250 to 10,000 feet about 18 miles off Liberia’s coast.

An estimated 4,500 people have died from the Ebola, primarily in Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea.

Those three countries account for a combined 3,431 deaths from the virus and 7,470 reported cases, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention said last Thursday.

Earlier this month, ExxonMobil began prohibiting non-essential staff from traveling to countries hit by the Ebola outbreak.

The company has also taken precautionary measures to ensure the safety of its employees’ families.

ExxonMobil’s operations in Nigeria, where the virus seems to be under control, have been unaffected.

Chevron and Woodlands, Texas-based Anadarko also have projects in Liberia and Sierra Leone and are continuing normal operations.