Nigeria: more business sense to go offshoreShell has encountered a significant volume of oil and gas with the appraisal well Ki-6. The drilling of this well marks a return of the company to the southeast offshore Niger Delta for the first time in nine years. The last well in this sector, Ki-5, was suspended in 1989. Ki-6 encountered more than 250 ft net oil in nine reservoirs, one of which is reportedly thicker than 60 ft.
The find boosts the company's efforts to move more of its production offshore, away from increasing community disturbances on land. The campaign to disrupt oilfield activities, by armed, militant youths from Nigeria's oil-rich, per-capita poor communities have intensified most significantly in the last six months and has led to fatalities on both sides (community youths and oil workers). Citing the impoverishment of their homelands as unfair and demanding higher stakes in oil proceeds, the youths have attacked platforms and drilling rigs and have been fingered as sabotaging flowlines to claim compensation for the resulting oil spillage.
Some inter-tribal warfare has erupted, renewing the call for a sovereign national conference to re-define the structure of Nigeria. In mid-October, Chevron was forced to evacuate the Searex 4 and Mallard Bay 74 rigs, drilling on the Dibi and Gbokoda fields respectively in the company's prolific swamp lease OML 49. The action was a result of the shutdown of the Abiteye Platform, to which oil from the Utonana and Makaraba fields is piped.
Shell and Agip, both heavily landlocked in operations, have had setbacks like this. Companies operating exclusively offshore, like Texaco and Mobil, have been almost excluded from threats of rig blockade, though occasional skirmishes still occur. As part of Shell's purposeful move offshore, the company is fast-tracking the development of the 500 million bbl Bonga Field in 1,000-meter water depths as well as the EA field in shallow offshore the Western Niger Delta. Shell is also currently acquiring a large swath of 3D data in the K and H Blocks in the southeastern offshore region, which has lain fallow for decades.
Angola: ensuring production in CongoThe Angolan government has a way of ensuring that booming cannons and mortar shells do not crimp the flow of oil in crisis-ridden central and southern Africa. In spite of the fragile peace, it has done very well at home: 700,000 bbl of oil is produced daily in its territory, mostly from the offshore enclave in Cabinda, which is separated from the rest of Angola.
It does even better abroad, though not always in respect of democracy. In late 1997, Angolan troops trekked north to occupy the oil port of Point Noire and help restore Dennis Sasso-Nguesso to the presidency in Congo Brazzaville, a move highly appreciated by Elf Aquitaine. Almost a year later, as the troops backed the beleaguered Congo-Kinshasa President Laurent Kabilla, the forces kept to the coastal areas, holding the oil port of Muanda and surrounding towns. The exercise not only secured the onshore oil patch operated by Belgium's Petrofina, but also protected Chevron's substantial holdings from shore-based interference.
South Africa, Ghana in ill run of luckSouth Africa and Ghana, the two largest democracies on the African edge of the Atlantic, have continued their run of ill luck in exploration of late.
- Offshore Cape Town, South African state-owned Soekor recently plugged and abandoned E-DO 1 at a depth shallower than the proposed TD, because the objectives were water wet. E-DO 1 was expected to be a short well, all of 5,248 ft in length, but it was plugged and abandoned at 4,828 ft. This is the latest evidence for those who argue that the most industrialized country in Africa can only be a marginal oil producer after all. South Africa is currently producing 25,000 b/d of oil from Oribi Field, which came onstream last year and has a life span of five years.
- Ghana has not even been that lucky. After a fruitless search, the country staked its hopes on Neuvo Energy's wildcat off Cape Three Points in the Western Region last September. But the well proved a depressingly dry hole after the jackup blasted through the hard Albian formation and reached the objective depth.
South Africa recently concluded an agreement with Dallas-based independent Pioneer Natural Resources to conduct exclusive exploration and production activities over Block 7/10-14B. The 10 million-acre tract encompasses all of former blocks 7 and 10, as well as the shallower portions of former blocks 11, 12, 13, and 14. The water depth here reaches up to 200 meters.
Meanwhile in Ghana, the UK company Dana will spud a well adjacent to Ghana National Petroleum Corp.'s South Tano gas field in a water depth of about 350 ft. Dana is also evaluating the possibility of drilling in deepwater.
Côte d'Ivoire hoping for Angola potentialCôte d'Ivoire is striving to become the Angola of the north. The small company is hoping that prospects in its deepwater leases will turn out to be oil fields of Angolan proportions when they are drilled. The ambition is spearheaded by Ocean Energy, who aims to commence drilling next February. Ocean Energy is in partnership with Shell in Block CI-105, where the well will be drilled. Most of the blocks in Côte d'Ivoire's deep offshore are yet to be taken, but potential players include Apache Corp., which is considering acquiring deepwater acreage.
Ocean Energy has identified 26 deepwater structures, five in Block CI-105 alone, with speculative recoverable resource potential of 3.6 billion bbl of oil. Water depths are in the range of 500-2,000 meters. With 700 sq km of new 3D data, the company has mapped a tertiary channel play that is analogous to Elf's 500 million bbl Girassol structure in the deep offshore Angolan play. Ocean Energy's earth scientists rank this prospect higher than the much vaunted Etente structure. The company plans to drill one of its two planned wells on that structure in February 1999. Meanwhile, Xpronet is evaluating some leads in deepwater lease 109, with 3D seismic data acquired by Geoquest in 1995.
Xpronet takes a regional lookJust as the time-limit for Xpronet's technical agreement with Côte d'Ivoire comes close to expiration, the company announces it was granted an agreement for offshore blocks E, F, G, and H in neighboring Liberia, leading to speculation that the company is likely to seek renewal of the agreement in Côte d'Ivoire. The speculation is borne out of the fact that blocks E, F, G, and H are actually near the Liberian border with Côte d'Ivoire, and the company may be regionally evaluating straddle plays in this area. Sources say that the agreement with Liberia can lead to a full production sharing contract signature upon completion of the six-month term. Xpronet is said to be planning 3D seismic acquisition over the leases.
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