West Africa

Fred Akani Lagos Mobil's Topacio Field. At the upper left, concessions and fields in the Benin-Nigeria Benin Basin. At lower right, Exxon's Bosi-1, the farthest offshore well in Africa.

Fred Akani

Lack of rigs slowing deepwater drilling

Rig availability is a key factor in the momentum for deepwater drilling activity along the Gulf of Guinea. Such companies in Nigeria, like Elf and Conoco, who hold deepwater leases but have not commenced drilling are handicapped by the lack of rigs more than anything else. Conoco is looking forward to drilling their first well in the fourth quarter 1997. They hope to utilize the semisubmersible Jim Cunningham, which has just been upgraded to a water depth of 4,600 ft and drilling depth of 25,000 ft. The rig is currently drilling for Elf Angola.

Meanwhile, Elf Nigeria will utilize Transocean Driller, formerly Drillmar-1, for its first deepwater Nigeria well during 2Q 1997. The rig is currently shared between Allied Petroleum, Statoil, and Agip. The inclusion of Elf will render the rig schedule tighter. Still, Elf is looking out for alternatives.

They may be able to obtain Saipem's Scarabeo-4, rated to water depth of 1,785 ft and currently drilling for Agip in Congo.

Discoveries migrating offshore

In the booming West African oil industry, more new oil is being found offshore than you get on land.

Out of the 20 discoveries made in the basins that line up along the Gulf of Guinea, 15 were offshore. Six of these, very significantly are in deepwater.

Mobil's Topacio-1(Equatorial Guinea, Niger Delta Basin) is the major find, with a flow rate of 11,055 b/d oil and 4.2 million cf/d gas.

In Angola, Total's Espardate N-1 flowed 9,150 b/d oil. It is located on the shelf in the Lower Congo Basin, which also witnessed Ranger's deepwater well, 4- 31- 1- 3 flowing 7,400 b/d oil.

There were five offshore discoveries offshore Angola, out of the same number of discoveries, all in the Lower Congo Basin out of which two are in deepwater.

Equatorial Guinea recorded four offshore discoveries, out of four, all in the Niger Delta Basin, two of which are deepwater.

Gabon's only discovery well in 1996 was on land. The Basin is Gabon Coastal.

In Nigeria, a total of ten discoveries were announced, seven of which are offshore. Nine of the 10 are in the Niger Delta Basin. The remaining one, Aje- 1 is in the Benin Embayment. Two of the discoveries are deepwater wells.

Benin: The prospectivity may be higher

Two events in the last quarter have highlighted the possibility that Benin, Nigeria's small western neighbor, may hold more oil than it is reputed to:

* In October, the Beninois Government announced the award of Block 2, sitting on the west of Block 1, to Tarpon Benin, a subsidiary of the American company Bettis Group. The three year E&P contract signifies the first time in 10 years, that any company will offer to work in a lease outside of Block 1, which holds the Seme Field, Benin's only producing field. Seme itself has been a troubled field, producing four times as much water as it does oil (1,800 b/d flow, cut with about 7,200 b/d water). In the last 15 years it has gone through several contract operators just to keep on producing. It has produced 20MM bbl since it commenced production in 1982. But operators are beginning to get keen on other unheralded prospects adjacent to Seme Field in Block 2. And the news from Nigeria could have helped propel the new scramble.

* In November 1996, Nigeria's Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR) formally announced an oil /condensate discovery by the indigenous company Yinka Folawiyo in Aje-1, located in 100 meters of water offshore Nigeria and 30 km from the coastline. Official estimates of the reserves, located 25 km to the east-southeast of the Seme Field, hover between 50-75mm bbl with the higher figures coming from Abacan resources, technical partners to Yinka Folawiyo (while the DPR claims the lower figure). Whichever way, this is the first significant finding in the Nigerian part of the Benin Basin, most of which lies in Benin. If Aje-2 confirms the Aje-1 discovery, we may soon have, in our hands the second producible field in the Benin Basin after Seme.

This supposes that the Benin Basin might be more prolific than it was ever thought to be and that potentials may be strewn all over offshore Benin, which may explain why Geneva-based Addax wants to drill horizontal wells and explore for additional oil and gas adjacent Seme, and Abacan is preparing to farm in to the tune of 50% in Addax's rights in Block 1.

Nigeria: catching up on the seabed

Nigeria was a latecomer to the current deepwater hunt offshore the Gulf of Guinea; now it has become arguably the most active. Its been five years since the first set of such leases were first awarded (after which there was a three-year period of intense negotiations with the government) and seismic didn't commence until 1993. Drilling did not start until July 1995. Today, the 10th deepwater well in Nigeria is currently being drilled; and two wells have been certified commercially successful. Still, of the six that were plugged and abandoned, only one was really bone dry.

In the Nigerian campaign, Exxon has drilled the farthest offshore well in Africa. Bosi-1 drilled to 16,000 plus feet in 4, 700 feet of water. And the Department of Petroleum Resources has carved out leases in deeper waters, reaching 8,200 feet water depth. Companies have been rooting for the leases.

Deepwater companies in Nigeria are having the most intimate of cooperation - they are sharing rigs: Shell and Exxon have utilized the same rig, as have Statoil and Agip. Metocean data are passed from company to company. And the deepwater ad-hoc group is interested in coming up with a stratigraphic study of the deep offshore Niger Delta, comparable with the stratigraphic study being carried by operators of land and shallow water terrains.

Nigeria: the move upcountry

The Nigerian state oil company NNPC had not completed the move from Lagos to Abuja, the burgeoning Federal Capital of Nigeria, at the time of this report. The key offices of the Department of Petroleum Resources DPR, the regulatory arm of the Nigerian oil industry, were still in Lagos. Both NNPC and DPR may not complete their relocation until mid 1997, but the reaction in the industry is such that the location of the headquarters of these government agencies doesn't neccessarily affect business a notch. After all, some of the companies (Agip and Shell) don't have more than administrative offices in Lagos. Elf has been planning to relocate its headquarters to Port Harcourt, but Mobil and Chevron have both invested heavily in property, and would rather open satellite offices in Abuja. Although Lagos has served as administrative city for the industry for upwards of 30 years, the main operations have been conducted on land, in the swamps and offshore Ondo, Delta, and Rivers states.

Copyright 1997 Offshore. All Rights Reserved.

More in Home