Africa: Bright Future for Oil Production: Africa Has Long Been Regarded as a Region of Importance to the International Oil Industry. Today, Thanks to a String of Major Discoveries and the Development of the Gulf of Guinea as One of the World's Premier Areas of Deepwater Activity, African Production Is Becoming Even More Important

Article excerpt

Africa's share of global reserves is increasing. Nigerian and Angolan production looks set to double over the next decade, but it is difficult to escape the feeling that the continent could be doing more to make the most of its hydrocarbon resources. Many commentators were skeptical when, in 1999, the Nigerian government first set its targets of boosting the country's proven oil reserves to 30 billion barrels by 2004 and 40 billion barrels by 2010, and increasing production capacity to 3 million barrels a day (b/d) by 2004 and 4 million b/d by 2010.

The figures seemed to be the wildly optimistic assessments of the country's new civilian regime, which was keen to tell its people and international financial agencies what they wanted to hear: Many observers, though pointedly not many in the oil industry itself, viewed the targets as laughable.

How much has changed in just four short years. When Funsho Kupolokun, the Nigerian special assistant to the presidency on petroleum affairs, said recently that the 30 billion barrel target had already been met, his claim provoked little surprise.

And in a speech at the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, Shell Nigeria's Nick van Ooyen claimed that there could be over 40 billion barrels in the Niger Delta alone, with many billions more in deepwater fields. The 2010 goals also no longer look to be in doubt.

Nigeria's reserves have been boosted by a series of major discoveries in the Niger Delta and in the deepwater arena, including Shell's EA, Bongs and Forcados discoveries and Exxon Mobil's Erha and Yoho fields.

High success rates have attracted yet more investment and increased interest in available acreage. Out of the 15 exploration wells that Shell Nigeria drilled during 2001 and 2002, 14 struck lucky, adding 750 million barrels to the company's Nigerian reserves. A total of 76 exploration wells are planned in Nigeria this year--an all-time record.

The first deepwater discoveries were not made until 1996 and are only now being brought on stream. With the notable exception of Angola, Nigeria possesses the largest deepwater territory in the Gulf of Guinea at 110,000 sq kms, a figure reflected in the increasing importance of offshore acreage in licensing rounds. Moreover, the proportion of this acreage on which production is economically and technically viable is likely to rise over the next decade, as much of it lies in over 1,500 metres of water and is therefore still at the cutting edge of technology.

Nigerian fields are leading the way in the development of the floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessels, which are required to access deepwater fields in the area.

A massive FPSO is currently being fitted on Tyne-side in northeast England for use on the Bonga field. The ship, also named the Bonga, has crude storage capacity of 2 million barrels, with processing capacity of 225,000 b/d of crude oil and 170m cubic feet a day (cf/d) of natural gas.

Production on the 500m field is expected in peak at 350,000 b/d, although the associated Bonga South West field, which is due to come on stream in 2005, has the potential to be even bigger.

Sao Tome & Principe

Following the intermediate resolution of contractual difficulties between the government of Sao Tome & Principe and foreign oil companies, the licensing round for the Nigeria-Sao Tome & Principe joint development zone (JDZ) was finally launched in April. Nine blocks were included in the round and bidders are requested to provide an indication of the bonus on often

All nine blocks comprise deepwater and ultra deepwater, so while development may be technologically challenging, the rewards are likely to be substantial. …