Quiz time: When was the Nene Field, a 1.2 billion barrel field on the shelf in 90 feet of water, discovered?
That's correct, just last year the Nene Field - a 1.2 Bbbl field discovered by ENI in 28 meters of water in Congo, proved that, deep water aside, West Africa still holds ample exploration and exploitation opportunities.
Africa is rich in both basin frontier and exploitation opportunities, and has been a key player in global oil production for decades.
From its start in the early 1960s, offshore West Africa exploration was crowned with success in the shallow offshore Niger Delta, off the Port Gentil region of Gabon in 1963 when the Gamba field was discovered by Shell; and offshore Congo with the discovery of the Emeraude field.
Following these initial discoveries, the West African region saw a flurry of exploration activity that resulted in numerous finds, including the Etame and Rabi-Kounga fields offshore Gabon and several others in the Niger Delta.
Between 1965-99, 233 fields have come into production in the West Africa region between Angola and the Ivory Coast - utilizing the services of several hundred platforms to produce at a peak rate of 3.1 MMbopd of liquids from 24.63 Billion BOE of accessible reserves.
Since the mid-1990s, the West African region saw significant expansion in exploration and development activity with the advent of giant deepwater fields discoveries.
The first giant deepwater fields of economic importance to be found in were Bonga in Nigerian Block OPL 212 and Girassol in Block 17 off Angola in the spring of 1996. Since then a total of 43 more fields have been discovered in water depths ranging from 300 to 1,458 meters, making the region a world hot spot for new reserves and finds.
The discovery of commercial petroleum off the coast of Ghana and Cote D'Ivoire also resulted in greater international attention on western Africa and kindled interest in West Africa's transform margin.
Recently there has been increased focus on deepwater and pre-salt drilling, with over nine deepwater wells targeting pre-salt plays offshore West Africa since 2012, most having been drilled in the Kwanza basin offshore Angola, and West African exploration has been driven largely by deepwater finds.
Recently pre-salt exploration in West Africa has been marked with many failures as well as some major successes, and the pre-salt campaigns in the last few years have not delivered as expected, the reasons being mainly related to difficulties in seismic imaging.
In 2014, many of Africa's frontier wells delivered dismal results and 2014 saw lackluster performance, but despite poorer performance across the continent, several new discoveries have been made and development plans are under way for a number of fields.
Recent discoveries and activity include:
♦ ENI made a discovery from the Sankofa East-1X well in Ghana's offshore Cape three points block with estimated discovered volumes being 490 Mbbls and 1.2 TSCF gas in place. The company envisages first oil by 2017 and first gas by 2018.
♦ Gabon - Tullow discovered a new oil accumulation with the Igondo-1 well in July 2014. The well encountered 90 meters of net oil and gas pay.
♦ In Senegal, Scottish operator Cairn Energy made a commercial discovery by drilling the FAN-1 well in the North Fan prospect in the Sangomar deep block, targeting multiple stacked deep-water fans. The well encountered 29 meters of net oil bearing sands.
♦ In 2014, some successes in pre-salt included Cameia (Angola), Diaman (Gabon) and Nene Marine (Congo). The Nene Marine wells discovered light oil and wet gas in the marine XII block offshore Congo, in a pre-salt clastic sequence.
♦ Total made a second commercial discovery in deepwater Cote D'Ivoire by drilling wildcat well Saphir-1XB well in block CI-514, confirming the extension of an already proven active petroleum system in the prolific Tano basin offshore Ghana.
♦ Nine deepwater project developments have been slated to come on line between 2014 and 2018 in Angola. Projects include Total's CLOV, ENI's west hub and Chevron's Lianzi, to mention a few. These new projects are targeted at delivering 1,060,000 bbls at peak sometime in 2020.
♦ Nigeria has five deepwater projects expected to come on stream between 2014-20:
- Shell's Bonga Northwest- 50 kbbls/day (OML118).
- ExxonMobil's Erha North (OML113) - 50,000 bopd.
- Total's Egina (OML130) - 200,000 bopd.
- ENI's Etan/Zabazaba (OPL245) - 80,000 bopd.
- Shell's Bonga South/Aparo (OML118/132) - 225,000 bopd.
Their combined output is expected to be 680,000 bopd.
New opportunities abound still and there is abundant low-hanging fruit.
Ranking among deepwater producers, the West African aquatory remains at the top of its game. Nigeria holds an estimated 37.1 billion barrels and 181 TCF gas, and production has averaged around 2.2 mbbls/day between 2005 and 2014.
According to Wood Mackenzie, most of the undeveloped marginal fields in Nigeria contain recoverable reserves between 50-500 Mbbls, most having been either awarded to indigenous operators or are peripheral within the major international companies' portfolios.
In Angola, Sonangol - Angola's state-owned hydrocarbon company - stated that the country has 13 Bbbls in reserves. Deepwater fields on-stream in West Africa between 2000 and 2010 had total reserves of 13,330 MMbbls of liquid and 17,870 BCF gas, while shallow water finds had 4,152 MMbbls of liquid and 13,891 BCF gas in reserves during the same period, according to Chatham House and KPMG sources.
These point to ample opportunities still existing in the region.
And there is low hanging fruit!
On the transform margin in Ghana, the TEN Project - from which Tullow is farming down - is on course for delivery. The deepwater cluster is expected to build production toward 80,000 bopd by 2017.
Any farm-in project will take less than two years to reach payday, as Tullow Oil farms down half of its 49.5 percent interest. Similar farm-in opportunities exist across West Africa.
The drilling of the Padouck Deep, Affanga and Okala wells in Gabon in the pre-salt play have helped to further de-risk the play elements offshore Gabon. Many smaller oil companies are on the lookout for such opportunities that have been de-risked and only waiting to be worked up to production.
There also are opportunities in the areas of field reactivation and redevelopment. For example, the redevelopment of the Seme Field in the Benin Basin, which was under production by PanOcean and Ashland Oil, producing 7,627 bopd at its peak in 1984.
At its lowest in 1997, it was producing only 1,207 bopd - and more of water than oil - and was abandoned in 1997.
Sapetro took over the field, acquired extensive seismic data and conducted extensive interpretation, reservoir characterization and modeling.
With field redevelopment, the company sees peak production at around 9,000 bbls liquid/day and expects that the field can be drained optimally for the next 16 years.
As the saying goes: The best place to find oil is where oil has been found, and West Africa remains one of the most prolific areas in the world to explore and exploit hydrocarbons.