West Africa

Two more appraisal wells, Agbami-3 and Agbami-4, were successfully drilled back-to-back, with Transocean Sedco Forex's drillship Deepwater Discovery on the huge Agbami structure, paving the way for development of the field. Agbami is located in OPL 216, in deepwater Nigeria.

AMFA/Texaco's Agbami on course

Two more appraisal wells, Agbami-3 and Agbami-4, were successfully drilled back-to-back, with Transocean Sedco Forex's drillship Deepwater Discovery on the huge Agbami structure, paving the way for development of the field. Agbami is located in OPL 216, in deepwater Nigeria. Texaco is the technical partner (with 40% interest) to the indigenous company, Famfa, which holds the lease. At 1 billion bbl, Agbami is the biggest field in Texaco's assets worldwide. The field development plan for Agbami envisages a floating production, storage, and offloading (FPSO) vessel designed to handle 200,000 b/d and 260 MMcf/d of gas and to store at least 2 million bbl of oil.

The plan also calls for deployment of a dry tree platform. Agbami straddles Statoil's OPL 217 (in which Texaco also has an interest) as well as Famfa/Texaco's OPL 216. The field is due to come on stream in mid 2005, with output expected to peak at 200,000 b/d in 2007.

South Africans swoop on Gabon

Of the three major oil producing countries in West Africa, Gabon has offered the most opportunity upstream for South African companies keen to get into the prolific West African offshore. South African state oil company Soekor has had no luck getting into a lease in Nigeria. Cape Town based Energy Africa is not in Nigeria either, and its 20% interest in Texaco's Block 9 off Angola has not shown exciting possibilities.

On the contrary, things are looking up for these firms in Gabon. Sasol, the synfuels giant, has invested in the 40 million bbl Etame Field, holding 30% through its wholly owned subsidiary Sasol Petroleum International. The promise of the field was confirmed recently with the Etame V well, located 2.4 km from the discovery well in 75 meters water depth, encountering a net oil pay of 24 meters. First oil from the field is expected in the 1Q 2002.

Elsewhere in the Gabonese waters, Soekor paid $5.7 million for 15% interest in Akori Block, spread over water depths ranging between 50 meters to 2,000 meters and located west of Point Gentil. Meanwhile, Energy Africa has increased its interest to 50% in the 3,000 b/d Echira Field and is holding 25% in the Tchatamba West Field, which produces 5,000 b/d. Even so, the South Africans are looking to venture into deeper waters, as farm-in partners to any company willing to operate.

TFE'S mixed grill off Nigeria

French supermajor TotalFinaElf plugged and abandoned Atria-1 in OML 102, in shallow water offshore Nigeria as a dry hole in June. This was after a successful appraisal of the nearby Nkarika-3, in the same lease. Both Atria-1 and Nkarika-3 were drilled back to back, with the rig Scarabeo-3. Nkarika-3 tested two levels at combined rates of 3,800 b/d of 21

Nigerian crude production to rise

Nigeria is predicting an increase of 890,000 b/d of crude oil production in 2003. As a result, Nigeria is hoping for an increased market share from OPEC. To reach this objective, the Nigerian Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. (NNPC) will begin talks with four multinational oil companies about beginning production in four fields.

The fields are located in OPLs 212, 209, 316, and 216. They are being developed under PSCs with the Nigerian government through NNPC. The fields include Shell's, ESCO's Erha Field, ABO field held by Nigeria Agip Exploration, and Agbami Field belonging to Star Deepwater/ Famfa Oil Co.

Agip's ABO Field on OPL 316 is believed to contain over 800 million bbl reserves with 150,000-200,000 b/d. Famfa Agbami Field in OPL 216 is also expected to produce 125,000 b/d of oil when onstream, with a proven crude reserve of over 1 billion bbl. Collectively, the four fields will produce about 890,000 b/d when produc-tion commences in 2003.

Bonga Field has been confirmed to contain 1 billion bbl of crude reserve and an estimated output of 250,000 b/d, while Erha Field has a potential daily production capacity of 140,000 bbl.

Sweet and sour for Woodside

Woodside's surprising find offshore Mauri-tania has turned out to be the only oil discovery by the Australian independent in 2Q 2001. Out of seven exploratory wells drilled by the company during the quarter, four wells in Australia proved to be dry holes, whereas two encountered significant gas pays. The first well drilled outside Australia, in deepwater Northwest Africa, found oil. Chinguetti-1 well encountered 90 meters gross oil sand. It was the first oil discovery in the Mauritania which, not considered as part of the prolific deepwater West African fairway, has endured the absence of major oil companies exploring its vast tracts.

Chinguetti was the first well drilled in deepwater Mauritania, and its success might cause the majors to rethink the idea of staying away from the region. The Mauritanian government has been able to attract a slew of independents, including Vanco, Fusion, and Dana. Vanco shot 2D seismic this summer. Barely a month after making the first discovery in deepwater off Mauritania, Woodside Petroleum encountered a reason to feel sour.

The firm's second well, Courbine-1, spudded immediately after the discovery well (Chinguetti-1), was plugged as a result of mechanical problems and then re-spudded. Still Courbine-1 proved to be far less successful than Chinguetti-1, encountering less than 10 meters gross hydrocarbon, with water contact. Woodside has plugged and abandoned the well, which was drilled in Area B, at 4,452 meters.

Vanco continues seismic surveys

A Vanco Energy Co. subsidiary contracted TGS-Nopec Geophysical Co. to conduct a 2D seismic survey of its Majunga Profond block offshore Madagascar. At the end of July, the Binhai 517 started a 2,000 km survey of the deepwater block in the northwestern sector off Madagascar. In March, Vanco Madagascar Ltd. signed a production sharing contract with L'Office des Mines Nationales et des Industries Strategiques (OMNIS) for the Majunga Offshore Profond block, the first block awarded in the Majunga Basin since 1997. The Majunga Offshore Profond block covers 3.57 million acres. The primary areas of interest are in 1,000-3,000 ft water depths 40 km offshore. The deepwater survey, to conclude this month, will delineate the Majunga Basin. Vanco is the operator with 100% interest.

Vanco has conducted extensive 2D and 3D surveys offshore five countries in the region over the last year. Offshore Senegal, a 1,500-km 2D survey of Vanco's Dakar Offshore Profond was completed in March. Since last July, nearly 7,970 sq km of 3D seismic have been acquired on Vanco's licenses offshore Morocco, C

Norsk Hydro to drill offshore Angola

Norsk Hydro announced in mid-July that it expected to begin drilling next year on Block 34 offshore Angola. The company was recently awarded a stake in this block, which lies northwest of Luanda, in which the Angolan government has confirmed Norsk Hydro's 30% share. Angola's state-owned Sonangol will operate the block, marking the company's first instance in this role. Norsk will provide technical assistance. Meanwhile, work on the Girassol Field has been delayed because of the late completion of the floating production vessel in Korea. A new schedule has the project coming onstream at the end of this year.

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