West Africa

March 1, 2002
A new oil discovery has shot the Anglo Dutch Giant Shell into unrivalled leadership of deepwater Nigeria. Shell reported 6,000 b/d drill stem test (DST) results in one level in Bolia-1 in OPL 219 and gave a conservative reserves estimate of 130-240 MMbbl.

Shell gets bigger in Nigeria's deepwater

A new oil discovery has shot the Anglo Dutch Giant Shell into unrivalled leadership of deepwater Nigeria. Shell reported 6,000 b/d drill stem test (DST) results in one level in Bolia-1 in OPL 219 and gave a conservative reserves estimate of 130-240 MMbbl. A glimpse into the data indicates two blocky sands close to total depth, with a gross hydrocarbon column of at least 450 ft. There are four other levels, all between 8,500 and 12,800 ft. Shell is currently developing the huge Bonga field with estimated recoverable reserves of 600 MMbbl and is appraising a southwestern segment of the field also thought to hold 600 MMbbl. The company plans first oil in 2004 with 200,000 b/d. With the giant gas field Nnwa-Doro, estimated at 10 tcf, and a 44% stake in ExxonMobil's Erha Field (about 400 MMbbl), Shell is clearly doing far better than ChevronTexaco, whose major proved field is the 1 BBOE Agbami.

ExxonMobil abandons a string of appraisal wells

ExxonMobil's Nigerian subsidiary has plugged and abandoned a string of appraisal wells in the country's shallow offshore continental shelf in the last month, mostly for failure to meet the objectives. Etoro 3ST was plugged and abandoned for poor development of the target sands, Isonsi-2 was abandoned due to marginal oil shows, and Isobo-11 was plugged after encountering little gas. In Etim WAA2, the US major faced new disappointment. "We didn't even find the sands," said a source. These appraisal wells are part of the mandatory exploratory and appraisal wells that oil companies in Nigeria must drill to justify certain profit incentives enlisted in the memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed with the state owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. The MOU was created to provide impetus for companies to increase the country's oil reserves by drilling in exploratory areas. In the last five years, ExxonMobil has found it difficult to find new oil through the drill bit in shallow water acreage. Early last year, the company discovered a new field, Enang West, in OML 67.

Two leading independents invest in Equatorial Guinea

The Ministry of Mines and Energy for Equatorial Guinea awarded a production sharing contract for Block N in the Corisco Bay area of the Rio Muni Basin in early February. Independent Ocean Energy's subsidiary, Ocean Equatorial Guinea Corporation, has a 30% participating working interest, and Vanco Energy Co. subsidiary Vanco Equatorial Guinea Ltd. has a 10% interest in the block.

Corisco Bay ranges in water depth from the shoreline to 660 ft and covers 678,000 acres. The block is on trend and contiguous with Amerada Hess' Block G, containing the Ceiba oil field and the Okume, Oveng, and Ebano oil discoveries. Corisco Bay is also adjacent to the million-acre Corisco Deep Block K to the west, which Vanco operates with 100% interest.

Vanco adds to its acreage with 10% interest in Corsico Bay
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The remainder of Block N is held by Petronas subsidiary Carigali Overseas SDN BHD with 60%.

Sao Tome and Nigeria push ahead on Joint Development Zone

Of the maritime disputes that Nigeria has had with oil-rich neighbors, the one with Sao Tome and Principe (STP) has turned into a huge opportunity. The two countries are implementing an ambitious and far reaching agreement on hydrocarbon exploration in the waters that mark the overlap of their boundaries.

In Nigeria, a high-powered committee from the regulatory body Directorate of Petroleum Resources and state oil company NNPC is handling the issue. In Sao Tome and Principe, President Menezes has appointed two directors to the joint authority governing the Joint Development Zone between Nigeria and STP, one of whom will be Flavio Pires dos Santos of the STP National Petroleum Commission. Nigeria will immediately contribute $8 million toward the functioning of the JDZ Authority, which will be based in Abuja with a staff of 30. One of the high points of the agreement is that the commission will work up the Hercules prospect, a large, Girassol-looking area that lies in the JDZ. A 3D seismic survey conducted by PGS will allow this prospect to be effectively mapped and ease the picking of an optimum location for drilling.

Angola: BP follows up in Block 31

BP plans to drill two wells in 2002 in ultra-deepwater lease Block 31, off Angola. The semisubmersible rig Leiv Eiriksson will drill the two wells on the lease in April/May 2002 (Pluto 1 nfw) and September. Block 31 adjoins TotalFinaElf's prolific Block 15 and is the westernmost lease in deepwater Angola.

Last October, the British supermajor became the first operator to spud a well in any of the three expensive leases (blocks 31, 32, and 33). These blocks were awarded in a 1999 bidding round for in excess of $300-million signature bonus each. Jupiter 1 was plugged and abandoned dry, after drilling to 14,526 ft in 6,035 ft water depth. The company scuttled plans to drill a second well immediately after Jupiter 1. It is not known whether either of the wells planned for 2002 is close to Jupiter 1.

TFE steps out of comfort zone

TotalFinaElf is stepping out of its comfort zone to drill a well outside of Block 15 offshore Angola. As of mid-February, the French giant had lined up wildcat Mariposa 1 in deepwater Kwanza Basin Block 19 for spud in the second half of the month.

This is in fulfillment of a commitment to drill two exploration wells in the 4,860-sq-km block, which was awarded on Jan. 1, 1999. The objectives are cretaceous sands. The semisubmersible rig Jim Cunningham was expected to spud the well, located in the northern portion of the license. A second commitment well is due later in 2002. TFE is not exactly keen on Block 19. The deepwater portion of the Kwanza Basin has experienced a couple of dry holes. Block 19 is located at the edge of deepwater Kwanza and is on the cusp between the proven Lower Congo Basin and Kwanza.

The company has been hawking a significant stake in its 30% in the lease. Apart from two wells, TFE is also expected to acquire 2,200 km of 2D seismic in the first four-year period.

Since operations in deepwater Angola began in 1995, TFE has done its main work in Block 15 in the Lower Congo Basin, where it has discovered more than 3 billion bbl of oil in five fields. The company put its largest oil field, Girassol, on stream late last year and it is already producing 160,000 b/d.

Partners with TFE in Block 19 include Cana-dian Natural Resources (25%), Ocean Energy and Sonangol, each with 20%, and Naptha (5%).