Toyin Akinosho reports.
… But geology can still obstruct the roller coaster,
Ghana is going from discovery to first oil in a giant deepwater oilfield, in less time than did Nigeria and Angola. If everything goes according to the press statements of the investing partners in the 800 million barrel Jubilee field project, the field would be delivering oil in just about three years from discovery. Jubilee was discovered in June 2007; the partners Tullow, Anadarko and Kosmos insist that the field is coming on stream sometime in the second half of 2010.
Angola’s Girassol and Nigeria’s Bonga, with roughly the same status and significance as Ghana’s Jubilee, made it to first oil in more than five years after they were each discovered. Apart from these two, there’s no other country on the Gulf Of Guinea that has deepwater fields of comparable size with Jubilee, a helpful explanation for why majors like ExxonMobil, ENI, and BP as well as CNOOC have shown keen interest in Ghana.
Ghana has had a good year in terms of overall oilfield activity relating to both the drill bit and the commercial playground; almost as soon as Tullow Oil announced the discovery of the Twenoboa field, proving that the deepwater oil tank extends beyond Jubilee, news filtered in about ExxonMobil ‘s interest in acquiring Kosmos Energy’s stake in Jubilee for $4billion. The reputation of the putative buyer and the amount of money on the table heightened the perception of profitability of the overall Ghanaian portfolio.
But once the Deepwater Tano and Cape Three Points blocks have been taken, what other acreages can be prospective enough to interest the majors?
The discoveries of the last two years, principally Odum and Tweneboa, have basically confirmed the prolificity of these two acreages. Odum and Tweneboa are located outside the Jubilee channel, but they both reside on the megastructure.
Hess Corporation’s dry hole, Ankobra 1, drilled in 2008, is located in adjacent Deepwater Tano/Cape Three Points license, but is off the Jubilee megastructure. Is it possible that prospectivity decreases southwards, away from Jubilee and its satellites?
Are we replaying, in Ghana, the experiences of Equatorial Guinea Mauritania and Egypt where, every other operator/partner outside the flagship field has had much less luck than those operating the signature field?
Some background: As soon as Triton announced the discovery of Le Ceiba, in Eq Guinea’s deepwater Rio Muni Basin, everybody rushed in. But while Triton (and latterly Hess) kept deepening their understanding of La Ceiba and increasing their take points, every other company on leases adjacent to La Ceiba was reporting either sub-commercial finds or outright dry holes. In Mauritania, there was a host of smaller oil and gas discoveries, after Woodside’s Chiguetti find, but the commerciality was low and even Chinguetti’s own production headed south rather quickly.
In Egypt’s deepwater, no company has been able to encounter anything close to the size of the hydrocarbon accumulation in the West Deep Delta Marine Concession, the country’s signature deepwater asset, which provides all the gas for one of Egypt’s two LNG projects. Shell has struggled in the past five years to put an LNG project on the drawing board on the basis of accumulations in its North East Mediterranean Deepwater NEMED) Block, which is adjacent WDDM. So far, the Anglo Dutch major hasn’t come up with the reserves figure that can justify such a project.
So, is this the way the marginal (smaller) provinces of deepwater Africa, outside Nigeria and Angola, work?
Does this mean that Vanco/Lukoil, who hold the Cape Three Points Deep and ENI, which is operator of Cape Three Points South are far more likely to encounter dusters, or sub-commercial hydrocarbon pools?
The experience with Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania and Egypt says “Yes”. But we are the first to admit that this analysis is not being made with any hard technical data. We are not privy to anything more than well location and results and sheer common sense.
If there would be any other field of Jubilee size, outside the Jubilee megastructure, in Ghanaian deep waters near the size of Jubilee it would have to happen in another basin.
To explain this, let’s take another look at Equatorial Guinea.
While every company-major and independent- crowded around the vicinity of Le Ceiba in deepwater Rio Muni Basin, Noble Energy ventured northwards, to take a look at the largely unexplored deepwater Douala Basin. The company probed Miocene targets in Douala, contrary to Cretaceous age reservoirs that others were pursuing in Rio Muni. In three years of work, (2005 to 2007), Noble had encountered commercial sized hydrocarbon pools in Belinda, Benita, Yolanda and Diega prospects in blocks O and I. As of the time of our going to press, the field development plan for Benita (renamed Aseng) had been approved. The field is expected to produce some 50,000Barrels of oil per day at peak, a few months after it comes on stream in 2012. Noble will develop the other fields after Aseng by tieing them to the main facilities in Benita.
In the past two years, Afren has been the only company that has drilled a well outside of the Tano Basin in Ghana. Its Cuda 1, located in Keta Block on the Accra Keta basin, which is farther east, towards the Ghanaian border with the Republic of Togo, was not completed. It may be stretching things a little to say that Afren will encounter a commercial sized pool in Accra-Keta basin for the simple reason that it is a long way away from the frenetic activity in the Tano Basin. From the point of view of its location, the Accra Keta is too close to the lack luster Togo Basin and the once productive, barren looking Benin Basin, to suggest that it might be prospective.
But then the Tano Basin itself was a grave yard of hopes just 10 years ago, until Kosmos, Anadarko and Tullow started re-interpreting the data differently from earlier explorers. Kosmos itself described the Tano Basin as a bad address only four years ago.
It will be interesting to see what Vanco, Hess and ENI come up with, as they drill in the vicinity of Ghana’s main hydrocarbon prizes