Africa is struggling to convert discoveries into producing fields

November 16, 2018

Edited and Published by GEOExPro Magazine, November 2018

Africa has been one of the lesser active zones in terms of exploration in the recent years, especially after the crude oil price crash. Within Africa, the Senegal – Mauritania maritime border and Egypt have been the hotspots in the past 3-4 years where there has been a considerable amount of exploration which has resulted in some high profile discoveries like the giant Zohr gas field and Atoll discovery offshore Egypt, Ahmeyim – Teranga – Yakaar discoveries offshore Mauritania and Senegal, and Nooros discovery onshore Egypt. It can be observed from the graph below showing the discovered volumes that the overall exploration success has fallen considerably from 2016 onwards, compared to the levels from 2011 to 2015.

 

A reason for the drop in the discovered volumes is the level of success in the high impact wells drilled since the beginning of 2016. A total of 14 such wells classified as high impact wells on the basis of either large volumes of prospective resources reported or being a play opener or being of focus for the operator have been drilled since Q1-2016. Only four of them have resulted in a commercially successful discovery, whereas, four of them showed small or uncommercial volumes of hydrocarbons and the rest were declared dry.

However, exploration plans for the rest of 2018 and 2019 seem encouraging as, as many as 15 such high impact wells are planned in the coming 15 – 16 months. The locations for these wells vary from onshore Egypt, Morocco and Tanzania to deep-water Gambia, Namibia, South Africa, Ghana, Mauritania and even Angola. The participation of super-majors like Total and ExxonMobil, and Norwegian E&P Equinor and British Independent Tullow as well as Kosmos and FAR Limited who have already seen success in the Mauritania – Senegalese waters, shows encouraging signs for near term future exploration activity in Africa. In the remaining of 2018 alone, 10 such high impact wells, including Total’s Tarif prospect onshore Egypt; Tullow’s Cormorant prospect offshore Namibia; FAR’s Samo prospect offshore Gambia and so on, are expected to be drilled. Also, the recent success seen by the British Independent Savannah Petroleum onshore Niger, where it made the Amdigh, Bushiya and Kunama discoveries, has opened up a whole new prospective area in the continent.

Although Africa as a continent has tasted a reasonable amount of success in terms of discovered volumes since 2011, sanctioning and development of these reserves is an entirely different story. A paltry 17% of the overall discovered volumes have been sanctioned till now. The sanctioned volume would have been much lesser if not for the high profile Zohr gas field, Eni operated Nooros and BP operated Atoll projects in Egypt, and Coral FLNG offshore Mozambique which were sanctioned in the years 2016 – 2017. Many of the new discoveries are located in new immature basis, like Mozambique, Tanzania and Mauritania. As these projects requires large invesmnets comitments it takes time to mature and develop thes eprojects. That being said,  the recent African discovereis will play an important role in shaping the future of the continent which is highly dependent on the hydrocarbon output.

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