The Chinguetti field off Mauritania, West Africa’s biggest deepwater disappointment, has been struggling, of late, to grab the headlines it once dominated.
The field production increased to 17,000BOPD in October 2008, following the successful completion of the C-20 well. That’s good news for a field that averaged 10,000 BOPD in the first half of the year. But the fact that this makes a big splash shows how low the reputation of Mauritania’s flagship field has sunk.
This was the field on whose fortunes, Woodside, the Australian operator, had hung its West African adventure. It was also the reason why a long list of Australian operators had headed to Mauritania at the turn of the 21st century.
Back in February 2006, when Chinguetti delivered its first oil, there was hope that it would herald a fresh start for Mauritania. Output swiftly peaked at 75,000BOPD and the first million barrel cargo was shipped to China within three weeks. The field, however, quickly ran into technical difficulties and by December 2006, it was doing barely 24,000BOPD on average. Citing complexity of field subsurface geology, Woodside drilled more drain holes. In stead of raising production, output fell to an average of 15,000BOPD in 2007. That was when Woodside decided to leave.
In November 2007, Woodside sold its Mauritanian assets for $4lSmillion to Malaysian state hydrocarbon company Petronas.
Woodside, which is one-third owned by Shell, took a hefty loss in the Chinguetti sale, which forced the Australian operator to slash its 2008 production growth estimates.
Petronas almost immediately started trying to improve results.
The experience of Chingetti has cooled the industry’s outlook in Mauritania, but there are still adventurers taking a look in.