West Africa

TotalFinaElf has spudded the Ebipre prospect in deepwater Block OPL 246 offshore Nigeria. The block holds the huge Akpo structure (>500 MMbbl), which is now under development. The fourth well on that structure, Akpo-4, encountered 64 meters net oil and was to be drill-stem tested in early January.

TotalFinaElf spuds well off Nigeria

TotalFinaElf has spudded the Ebipre prospect in deepwater Block OPL 246 offshore Nigeria. The block holds the huge Akpo structure (>500 MMbbl), which is now under development. The fourth well on that structure, Akpo-4, encountered 64 meters net oil and was to be drill-stem tested in early January. Ebipre-1 is the first wildcat to be drilled on OPL 246 after Akpo. TFE officials said that the drillship Deepwater Discovery spudded the well early in January 2002 in 5,580 ft water depth. Ebipre is a large faulted anticlinal structure, located north of OPL 246 and straddling Shell's 219, and Conoco's 220.

OPL 246 is held by the indigenous company South Atlantic Petroleum, (60%) the designated operator of the block. TFE holds 24% and is the technical partner, with Petrobras holding 16%.

ExxonMobil and Phillips pull out of Nigeria

In December of last year, ExxonMobil announced that it had withdrawn operatorship of Block OPL 214. At the same time, Phillips Petroleum pulled out of OPL 318. This decision might be attributable in part to the Nigerian government's decision to hold 30% equity in the blocks under the production sharing contract arrangement.

With only 70% equity in the blocks, ExxonMobil and Phillips seemingly cannot develop the acreage profitably while they are encumbered with 100% responsibility for financing, developing, exploring, and producing the blocks. ExxonMobil, through its subsidiary Esso, bid $20 million, the asking price, for OPL 214. Partners in the block are Chevron and Petronas.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) reportedly offered the blocks to its subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC), on the condition that NPDC would pay for the blocks. NPDC took over the blocks and found an interested partner in Italian oil firm Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC). An agreement is already in place between NPDC and NAOC, and work is expected to begin on the first well in the blocks by May.

Shell goes ahead for Kudu gas

Shell has resumed active work in the Kudu field off Namibia, after a three-year hiatus. The semisubmersible rig Ocean Whittington was due to arrive from Brazil on January 5 to commence drilling four wells around the Kudu main structure. The first well was to be located on the northern flank of the field to test the northern limits.

The second is another appraisal well on the main Kudu structure. Shell stopped drilling in the Kudu field in December 1998 after Kudu 5 proved gas. The company, meantime, went on to sort out ideas for marketing the gas. Until last September, the plan was to sell the gas for power purposes in South Africa. But now Shell is working on a Floating LNG option for the gas.

The current drilling program expects to prove up to 3 tcf of gas (7.5 tcf expected) from these first two wells. If this happens, Shell would be able to go forward on the floating LNG, which requires a minimum of 4 tcf of proven reserves.

ExxonMobil postpones first well off Angola

ExxonMobil has postponed the first of two wells planned on Block 33 in deepwater Angola. The well, Funge-1, was programmed to spud in December 2001 with the newly built semisubmersible Leiv Eiriksson, a Bingo 9000 type rig. Leiv Eiriksson is a fifth-generation semisubmersible unit fitted out by Friede Goldman Offshore on behalf of Ocean Rig ASA for operation in up to 2,500 meters of water in a dynamically positioned mode. ExxonMobil won the 5,000 sq km Block 33 in 1999 after a keenly contested bidding round. The partners paid upwards of US $330 million as signature bonus. The operator completed a near-blanket, 4,400 sq km 3D seismic survey on the lease in mid-July 2000.

ExxonMobil operates Block 33 with a 45% interests, with state oil company Sonangol (20%), Elf Petroleum Angola (Block 33) Ltd. (15%), Falcon Oil Holding (Panama) Ltd (10 %), Petrogal, S.A. (5%) and NIR Angola Block 33 LLC of Israel (5%) as partners.

Ocean Energy expands position in Angola

In early January, independent Ocean Energy, Inc. acquired a 1.2 million-acre interest in Block 10, offshore Angola. The block covers varying water depths to 1,500 ft at the deepest in the Benguela Basin, a sub-basin of the Kwanza Basin. Block 10 is adjacent to Block 24, where Ocean Energy is currently conducting exploration activities. This agreement boosts Ocean's overall holdings offshore Angola to 3.6 million gross acres.

Ocean's subsidiary, Ocean Angola Corporation, will hold a 35% working interest and serve as operator of the block. Sonangol will hold a 20% working interest, with the remaining 45% to be awarded to partners not yet named. Ocean Energy is the only US independent to be chosen as an operator in Angola, where there have been multiple major discoveries in the last five years.

ChevronTexaco to put Tubu on stream

ChevronTexaco plans to increase its 450,000 b/d production in Nigeria by 25,000 b/d when the Tubu field comes on stream in the last quarter of this year. Ray Wilcox, the recently departed Managing Director for Nigeria/Mid Africa for ChevronTexaco, said the field is planned to be an oil project put on production with no gas flaring from its inception.

The Tubu field is located in 20 ft water depth in OML 53. It is upthrown by a significant fault to the IMA condensate field, owned and produced by the indigenous company Amni Petroleum. The field was discovered in 1965, but a combination of factors, including lack of big fields and as such facilities for Chevron in the eastern Niger Delta, along with a poor understanding of the oil mechanism, rendered the project not worth developing.

An extensive geological study, stemming from an overview of its assets in the eastern Niger Delta resulted in an upgrading of Tubu as a prospect fit for production.

Agip adds volume in Nigeria

Ten months after the service contract was signed with the leaseholder, the Italian giant Agip has put the Okono Field on stream. The field, located in OML 119, in the prolific shallow waters off southeastern Nigeria, is flowing 17,000 b/d from two wells. OML 119 is held by NPDC, the E&P subsidiary of state-owned oil company NNPC. Okono was discovered by NPDC in 1983. The company also discovered a second field, Okpoho, the same year. Last year, it contracted out the field development to Agip and entered into an alliance with the company for technical partnership, training, joint bidding, and operatorship.

Today, the alliance says that the estimated oil in place for both Okono and Okpoho fields has risen to 417 MMbbl, up from about 200 MMbbl when the alliance was formed. Agip Nigeria;s CEO, Antonio Vella, says that the recoverable reserves from the two fields now are at 185 MMbbl. Peak production from the two fields has been revised upwards to above 50,000 b/d. The alliance expects to put the Okpoho field on production by the end of 2002. The terms of the service contract calls on Agip to manage the fields for five years under a sharing agreement of 70:30, after which the pact will change to 60:40.

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