WEST AFRICA

Elf's Haute Mer exploration permit. [34,452 bytes] Production begins on Tchatamba. [16,749 bytes] The International Court of Justice began hearings in March regarding a dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon over the Bakassi Peninsula, thought to hold significant oil reserves. The two countries have clashed sporadically over the 50 sq km peninsula in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea since 1994. Both countries have troops stationed in the impoverished islands, whose inhabitants are mainly fishermen.

Fred Akani
Lagos

Nigeria: The Bakassidispute continues

The International Court of Justice began hearings in March regarding a dispute between Nigeria and Cameroon over the Bakassi Peninsula, thought to hold significant oil reserves.

The two countries have clashed sporadically over the 50 sq km peninsula in the oil-rich Gulf of Guinea since 1994. Both countries have troops stationed in the impoverished islands, whose inhabitants are mainly fishermen.

The Bakassi Peninsula is located on the prolific southeast edge of the Niger Delta basin. The Nigerian section of this Basin, where Mobil and Elf operate, is roughly one-tenth of the basin, yet it produces 800,000 b/d of oil, more than one third of the country's 2.3 million b/d.

The recently discovered Zafiro Field (300 million bbl) in nearby Equatorial Guinea is further proof that the southeast offshore Niger Delta is awash with oil. Yet the two sides argue that water rights are the main prize prompting border disputes in the area.

Cameroon filed an action in 1994 asking the court to rule on the sovereignty of the peninsula, whose inhabitants speak Efik, the language of southeastern Nigeria. But Nigeria objected, stating that the court had no jurisdiction in the matter. A few months after filing the case, Cameroon sought to expand the case to include the whole border of the two countries, stretching from Lake Chad to

the sea. At last month's hearings, Nigerian Justice Minister Alhaji Abdullahi Ibrahim accused Cameroon of seizing the Bakassi Peninsula and poisoning talks aimed at resolving the squabble.

"Nigeria feels a most lively sense of indignation," he told the court. "Cameroon hopes to take Bakassi from us and gain a much larger maritime zone in the Gulf of Guinea than would result from negotiation," Ibrahim added. Nigerian lawyer Richard Akinjide told the court: "Nigeria has relied on bilateral machinery to its detriment."

In March 1996, the court told the two sides to end fighting in an interim ruling, but violence erupted again afterward.

Congo: Small discovery - big implications

Elf's recent discovery offshore Congo may be small, but it is one of far reaching geologic interest. The Bilondo Marine No. 1 well, in the Haute Mer Exploration permit, 16 km southwest of the Nkossa oil field, is one of the first times that Tertiary sediments have been tested in the Congo. Tertiary sediments have been the sites of the hugely successful finds in deep offshore Angola.

There is ongoing regional geologic evaluation of the Bilondo Marine, but there are hints that the Bilondo reservoirs may be genetically related to the deep offshore plays in offshore Angola.

Production tests were carried out on two levels and gave a combined flow rate of 8,520 b/d. Further appraisal work is planned for the well. The partners in the permit are Elf Congo as operator (51%); Chevron Overseas Congo (30%); Hydro Congo (15%); and Energy Africa (4%).

Gabon: Tchatamba production begins

Marathon Petroleum Gabon, along with its co-venturer Santa Fe Energy Resources of Gabon, announced the start of production from the Tchatamba Marine field in the Kowe Permit, located 18 miles offshore, about 100 miles southeast of Port Gentil, Gabon.

The field is producing at a rate of 15,000 gross bbl of 45! oil per day to production facilities, which consist of a converted jackup rig in 150 ft of water and a 750,000 bbl floating storage vessel. Field reserves are estimated to be 20 million gross bbl of oil. The discovery well was drilled in September 1995 and tested at a rate of 4,545 b/d through a 1-in. choke.

In October 1997, Marathon Petroleum announced a second Kowe Permit discovery, Tchatamba South, also in 150 ft of water, and about 10 miles south of Tchatamba Marine. The Tchatamba South No. 1 discovery well tested from two separate intervals at a combined rate of 7,680 b/d of 44! oil through a one-half in. choke. A delineation well, Tchatamba South No. 2, was drilled in November 1997 and confirmed reserves estimated in excess of 20 million gross bbl. Tchatamba South is expected to be developed with three wells and use the Tchatamba Marine field infrastructure. Tchatamba South pre-development work has begun with first oil anticipated in the second half of 1999.

The Gabonese government has exercised its right to obtain a 25% working interest in the Tchatamba Marine field. As a result, Marathon Petroleum Gabon's interest has been proportionately decreased to 56.25% interest. Santa Fe Energy Resources of Gabon now has an 18.75% interest and Energy Africa Gabon has a 25% interest. Meanwhile, in shallower waters, within the same permit, Marathon is drilling another prospect, Mpando-1, in 98 ft of water.

New exports will impact shipping

Rising output from West Africa will have a major impact on world shipping markets as most of the new production will be exported rather than used locally. Recent discoveries in deep offshore West Africa have boosted estimated recoverable reserves by at least 4 billion bbl and the newly discovered fields could add up to 1.4 million b/d to output by 2005.

In Nigeria alone, some 2.5 billion bbl of oil have been discovered in water depths ranging from 350 meters to 1,100 meters. But, Angola is the big news: the sizes of Elf's Girassol and Dalia as well as Chevron's Cuito field may tally up to 3.5 billion bbl. Chevron plans to take the first oil out of Cuito by fourth quarter 1999. Shell hopes to put Bonga field (deep offshore Nigeria) onstream by 2001.

Before the economic crisis in the Far East, around 15% of West African crude went to Asian refineries. If Asia absorbs a large part of the new African output, shippers would need twice as many vessels to move the crude east, than across the Atlantic or into northwestern Europe, according to the Centre for Global Energy Studies.

Copyright 1998 Oil & Gas Journal. All Rights Reserved.

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