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Commentary

Luiperd wildcat roars for Total in South Africa

French major Total has made a significant gas-condensate discovery off South Africa with the Luiperd wildcat well, confirming the deepwater play that opened up the Paddavissie Fairway last year with the Brulpadda find. Rystad Energy’s conservative preliminary estimate puts Luiperd’s recoverable reserves at close to 500 million barrels of oil equivalent, with potential upside for Luiperd and the remaining prospects in the license. The exploration success has prompted Total and its partners to proceed with development studies and engage with South African authorities to commercialize the gas rather than drill another exploration well in this program.

French major Total has made a significant gas-condensate discovery off South Africa with the Luiperd wildcat well, confirming the deepwater play that opened up the Paddavissie Fairway last year with the Brulpadda find. Rystad Energy’s conservative preliminary estimate puts Luiperd’s recoverable reserves at close to 500 million barrels of oil equivalent, with potential upside for Luiperd and the remaining prospects in the license. The exploration success has prompted Total and its partners to proceed with development studies and engage with South African authorities to commercialize the gas rather than drill another exploration well in this program.

Luiperd (Afrikaans for leopard) is the second discovery in Block 11B/12B. The Luiperd-1X well was drilled in approximately 1,800 meters of water to a total depth of about 3,400 meters by Odfjell Drilling’s semi-submersible rig Deepsea Stavanger, targeting a deep marine sequence of mid-Cretaceous age where fan sandstone systems are developed within a combined stratigraphic/structural closure. The pay zone is located in a mid-Cretaceous high-quality reservoir interval, and the well did not encounter the water contact. The partners are now testing the well to assess dynamic reservoir characteristics and deliverability.

The well encountered 73 meters of net gas-condensate pay, 16 meters more than the Brulpadda well. According to license partner Africa Energy, Luiperd has better reservoir quality with a greater net-to-gross ratio than Brulpadda, with good permeability. We believe that the pre-drill estimate was based on Brulpadda, and the higher net pay could therefore mean that Luiperd has exceeded pre-drill expectations. The results not only de-risk the additional prospects in the block, but also provide an upside as the net thickness may be increasing in an easterly direction from Brulpadda – which is where the remaining prospects are located.

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Africa Energy said that Luiperd’s condensate yield is high, which means a significant portion of the production could be liquids. A likely development option is a subsea tie-back to a fixed platform to be set up in shallower water depths for gas. An FPSO will be deployed to process and store the condensates, according to Africa Energy. Gas is expected to be piped off to the Mossel Bay gas-to-liquids plant, which is currently getting its gas supply from the depleting fields of Block 9. The high gas pay is said to be sufficient to be exported to Port Elizabeth as well, via a pipeline, where it will cater to domestic industrial demand.

Both Brulpadda and Luiperd rank high on the list of Africa’s largest discoveries in the past five years – at current volume estimates both the South African discoveries are in the top five, only beaten by discoveries in the prolific Senegal–Mauritania region.

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Block 11B/12B lies in the Outeniqua Basin off the southern coast of South Africa. The block covers an area of 19,000 square kilometers with water depths ranging from 200 to 1,800 meters. Operator Total holds a 45% interest in the block, with partners Qatar Petroleum on 25% and Canadian Natural Resources on 20%. Canada-based Africa Energy holds a 4.9% interest in Block 11B/12B through its 49% ownership in the final partner Main Street, which holds a 10% participating interest in the block.

Total has identified additional prospects in the license – Platanna, Woudboom and Blaasop – all located in the same Paddavissie Fairway as Brulpadda. The partners had earlier lined up the Blaasop and Kloofpadda prospects to be drilled after Luiperd, but as the group’s focus has now shifted to development of Brulpadda and Luiperd instead of further exploration drilling, any upside potential will remain unidentified for now. Africa Energy said there is oil potential further east of Luiperd, particularly at Kloofpadda.

Whether we look at Brulpadda and Luiperd alone or at the total potential of the license, there is little doubt that Block 11B/12B will be of significant importance for South Africa’s future energy supply. At the same time, development of these discoveries will not be plain sailing, as the operator needs to overcome challenges including rough seas and a limited annual window for development drilling.