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Shelf Drilling’s Scepter, Dolphin’s Blackford, Join the Nigerian Drilling Surge

Shelf Drilling’s new two-year contract for the jack up Scepter offshore Nigeria is the latest in the growing list of drilling contracts targeted at drilling in Nigeria, where a surge in rig count has reached 30% between February and March 2023.

Scepter is expected to spud the first well in the contract in May 2023. It’s not clear how many wells it will drill, but it must be a multi-well campaign to have a contract value of  $118Million for the firm period, including mobilization revenue. The contract includes a one-year option, Shelf drilling says.

Scepter will join the Blackford Dolphin, a platform rig which is currently drilling in the Oyo field complex on Oil Mining Leases (OMLs) 120 and 121 for the Nigerian indigenous company General Hydrocarbons Limited (GHL).

These rigs are the latest data in the rig count, which surged by 30% from February to March 2023.

Dolphin Drilling, owners of Blackford Dolphin, even signed a new contract for the rig after it arrived in Nigeria. The new deal, with Peak Petroleum  is in direct continuation of the previously announced 12-month contract with GHL.

This story was initially published in the February 2023 edition of Africa Oil+Gas Report

TGS /Petrodata to Acquire 11,000Sq km of Seismic Data off Nigeria

The TGS-Petrodata joint venture has received the approval of the Nigerian authorities to commence a $55Million three-dimensional (3D) ‘carpet’, multi-client seismic survey in the deepwater Niger Delta.

It’s an ambitious project which has benefitted from industry prefunding.

Chevron’s pre-funding of the project with $28Million is a bet on Nigeria’s deepwater future, say spokesmen for TGS and Petrodata.

Some other international operators have indicated interest in acquiring the data after production, but they will not get the benefit of the discount that Chevron is getting for pre-funding.

The first and second phases of the data acquisition are 5,500 square kilometres, each in areal size. China Oilfield Services Limited (COSL), a majority owned subsidiary of Chinese state-owned company China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) Group, will provide a Chinese made acquisition vessel. “The proposed acquisition will have significant offset, with 10kilometre long streamers”., the operators’ spokespersons say.

GHL Moves Rig on to the Oyo Field, Targets “The Big Ewo”

By Macson Obojemuinmoin, in Lagos

General Hydrocarbons Limited has moved the platform rig Blackford Dolphin to a location in deepwater Nigeria for a multi-well campaign on the Oyo oil field and adjoining prospects.

It will start operations by the second week of April 2023.

The company is particularly excited about the potential of a deep prospect in the vicinity of the Oyo North West Structure. The prospect, a robust, four-way closure hemmed in by a roll over fault, is called ‘Ewo Deep’. Top officials at GHL describe it as “The Big Ewo”.

An analogue of the Big Ewo, in another part of OML 120

Although GHL wants to establish revenue inflow by re-entering and hooking up some of the producer wells that have been shut in for the past five years, there is also the proposition that “access to development funding will be enhanced if Ewo proves to be what it seems”, company sources say.

The Oyo field and associated prospects are located in Oil Mining leases (OML) 120 & 121. The field was producing before the acreages were revoked from Erin Energy, its previous operator.

GHC also wants to drill new prospects that had been identified and listed in the prospect inventory. Company sources insist that the available seismic and petrophysical data have been extensively reviewed and the locations high graded. “Schlumberger has worked on the studies, Baker Hughes has taken a comprehensive look and (the Nigerian subsurface consultant) D’Harmattan has been part of these studies”, GHL sources, who want to remain unnamed, tell Africa Oil+Gas Report. “GCA (Gaffney Cline & Associates, a firm of ‘Competent Persons’) has evaluated what Schlumberger and others have done”.

Africa Oil+Gas Report’s skepticism is borne out of the fact of the chequered history of OMLs 120 and 121.  Production from the Oyo field, the only producing property in the acreages, fell rapidly almost as soon as first oil gushed out in December 2009, crashing from 22,500Barrels Per Day (BOPD) to 4,000BOPD in the space of 10 months. By November 2014, the six well field was delivering less than 1,000BOPD.  Two wells drilled in 2015: Oyo- 7 and Oyo -8, took the field to over 10,000BOPD, but Erin Energy was severely indebted at the time and was so burdened by litigations and other woes it keeled over into bankruptcy. The Nigerian state moved in to revoke the assets in 2019. The company lost its Ghanaian asset the same way two years after. It is noteworthy that Oyo -7 and Oyo-8 are two of the locations that GHL

Oyo Field Performance Profile

proposes to re-enter in the course of the campaign. No one says that there is any new seismic acquisition or processing. The lingering question is: If the ‘Big Ewo’ was sitting there all along, how come no one ever drilled it, in all the 30 years since the acreages were first awarded?

The planned drilling and re-entry in Oyo field &Co would be GHL’s first field operations since its incorporation in 2007. The company, owned by Nigerian investors, was discretionally awarded the OMLs 120 and 121 in 2020, several months after the revocation from the previous asset holder. It was one of the last discretionary awards of acreages under the laws that governed the country’s petroleum industry at the time. In the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), which is the new overarching legislation of the industry, no company will access an acreage outside of the process of a bid round.


Shell in Third Consecutive, But “Moderate Win” in the Rush for Namibia

By Maxwell Xhumale, in Windhoek

The multi-well campaign continues…First oil unlikely in a hurry

UK based major Shell, has announced the conclusion of safe and successful operations to drill a further exploration well – Jonker-1X – in Namibia’s deepwater Orange Basin.

The company’s third consecutive wildcat in PEL 0039 license was drilled to a total depth of 6,168metres in water depth of 2,210metres.

Shell is quite cautious in stating the hydrocarbon encounter: “Drilling operations established the presence of a reservoir with light oil”.

The Deepsea Bollsta semi-submersible rig will remain in PEL 0039 to drill further wells as part of the ongoing exploration and appraisal campaign.

But while clearly signaling its encouragement “by a further deep-water discovery, our third in Namibia”, a sentence like “Drilling operations established the presence of a reservoir with light oil”, is a euphemism for “don’t get too excited”.

Shell cautions that “further appraisal activities with dynamic data gathering are required to characterize the variability of rock properties and to determine the size and recoverable potential of the discovery”.

The company contends in its press release: “Frontier exploration requires a multi-phase process to establish a success case and after which it usually takes a number of years prior to reaching first production of commercial hydrocarbons”.

Shell’s JV partners in the campaign include Qatar Energy (with 45% working interest, like Shell) and NAMCOR (the state hydrocarbon company, with 10% carried interest).

“Jonker again demonstrated the Joint Venture’s strong commitment to advancing oil & gas exploration in Namibia and to progressing follow-up opportunities after last year’s discoveries. We look forward to continuing our excellent collaboration with the Government of the Republic of Namibia,” the operator delares.


Saipem Wins $400Million Contract for ENI’s Baleine Development Drilling in Cote d’Ivoire

Italian contractor Saipem has been awarded a drilling contract worth $400Million “by the Joint Venture Eni Côte d’Ivoire Ltd. and (state hydrocarbon firm) Petroci“, offshore Côte d’Ivoire.

The company didn’t reveal how many wells the contract will cover. The Baleine field, discovered in 2021, is located in 1,150metre water depth in the West African Transform Margin.

“This value ($400Million) is to be considered gross of the leasing costs of the Deep Value Driller vessel that will be used for the operations”, Saipem discloses.

What that simply means is that the seventh-generation drillship Deep Value Driller is specifically named in the contract. The rig is not originally Saipem’s; it was chartered as part of the agreement with the Norwegian company named Deep Value Driller.

Saipem has described Deep Value Driller, as “one of the most modern in the world”.

Saipem’s 12000 Drillship was used to drill the Baleine 1 discovery well.

Outside of drilling services, the contractor had earlier won engineering and procurement contracts worth about 1Billion Euros, for track development of the Baleine field, including:

  • Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Installation (EPCI) activities of Subsea Umbilicals, Risers and Flowlines (SURF) and of an onshore gas pipeline for the connection to the distribution grid.
  • The offshore laying of flexible lines, risers and umbilicals will be executed by Saipem’s flagship vessel FDS2 and the development of the project will be on a fast-track basis.
  • Engineering, Procurement, Construction and Commissioning activities regarding the refurbishment of the Firenze FPSO vessel, plus 10 years of Operations and Maintenance services of the vessel.

The latest (drilling contract) award, Saipem says, “represents an important consolidation of Saipem’s presence in the Ivory Coast, a strategic area where the company is currently executing the project for the development of the oil and gas field Baleine.”

TOTAL Probes the Western Extension of the Venus Discovery in a Four Well Campaign

French major TOTALEnergies is targeting up to four wells (including the re-entry of the Venus -1X discovery well, in Block 2913B), to appraise the Venus discovery and to investigate a potential westerly extension of Venus, the Nara prospect on Block 2912.

  • Venus -1A, on Block 2913B, to spud in the next few days, will be the first well to be drilled, using the Tungsten Explorer drillship, and is the first appraisal   well on the Venus discovery. This will be followed by a drill stem test using the Deepsea Mira.
  • Upon completion of the Venus -1A drill stem test, the Venus -1X exploration well, also on Block 2913B, will be re-entered using the Deepsea Mira to conduct a second drill stem test.
  • Nara -1X, an exploration well on the neighbouring licence, Block 2912, will then be drilled and flow tested by the Tungsten Explorer. This is the test of the western extension of the Venus prospect.
  • If Nara -1X proves successful, the Nara -1A appraisal well could then be drilled in Block 2912 and flow tested.

This programme will provide vital information that will hopefully enable TOTAL and partners to press ahead with development.

The Venus discovery is a large light oil and associated gas field, located in the Orange Basin, approximately 290 kilometres off the coast of southern Namibia, and in water depth of approximately 3,000 metres. The well was drilled to a total depth of 6,296 metres, by the Maersk Voyager drillship, and encountered a high quality light oil-bearing sandstone reservoir of Lower Cretaceous age.

Drilling of Venus -1A, the first appraisal well on the Venus discovery, will be located approximately 13 kilometres to the north of the Venus -1X discovery well and drilled using the Tungsten Explorer drillship. The Deepsea Mira will then be used to conduct a drill stem test at this location.

The Deepsea Mira will then re-enter and side-track the Venus -1X well and conduct a flow test. The objective of this programme is to further evaluate the Venus reservoir and deliver dynamic data.

Block 2913B (PEL 56). PEL 56 is operated by TOTALEnergies who holds, a 40% working interest, with Impact Oil7Gas holding 20% and QatarEnergy and NAMCOR respectively hold a 30% and 10% working interest.

Block 2912 (PEL 91)may contain a highly material westerly extension of the Venus field. Operations by TOTALEnergies during 2023, on behalf of the Joint Venture, are designed to explore and, if successful test, this potential extension of the Venus accumulation into Block 2912 and provide an understanding of the structure and reservoir quality.

“We Drilled two Wells for Energia; Happy for them on Ebendo North 1 Discovery”

Matpatson Petroleum Services is a well engineering and drilling equipment procurement firm, fully engaged in turnkey drilling and associated services. It concluded drilling two wells back-to-back, barely a month ago, on the Ebendo field onshore Western Niger Delta for Energia Petroleum, the Nigerian marginal Field operator. OLUBUKOLA OKULAJA AND OLUMIDE ILESANMI, Matpatson’s Managing Director and General Manager Engineering & Project respectively… spoke with Africa Oil+Gas Report on the growing appetite for turnkey drilling services in the country, focusing on the value of delivering wells on time and on budget. Excerpts:

Africa Oil+Gas Report: Congratulations on delivering two wells back-to-back on Ebendo. There was so much excitement in …

Matpastson: We have done one exploration and one appraisal/development well back-to-back; all on turnkey, for Energia Petroleum, on their Ebendo field in Oil Mining Lease (OML 56).

The idea for contracting well drilling on a turnkey basis is not totally new in the industry, but if you remember, the operator provided everything apart from the actual making of the hole. However, we have gone beyond that, we drill the well and we provide everything. We also provide other services like open-hole logging, for which we make arrangement with other contractors. Basically, the client gives us the coordinates, we design the well and they agree with the design, we also write the programme and they agree with the programme and then we go to execute.

Raring to go: :”We have tubings, we have casing accessories, we have well heads and we have completion accessories all in our warehouse in Port Harcourt”.

So you are their drilling department in a sense.

Yes and they only have somebody that oversees what we are doing to ensure that it is in line with what we have agreed on. We didn’t just wake up and got there as Matpatson. We have a mission and a vision statement which was written in 2007.

We’d get to your mission statement. The Ebendo story sounds exciting…

Energia was actually going to drill in 2022 and they put out a tender for a rig and we approached them and said why don’t you just give us this job to do and we’d provide all the services.

So for turnkey you also actually have to provide the rig?

Yes you have to provide the rig and everything else. We did all the negotiations and they asked if we had everything and we said yes, they could come visit our warehouse here in Lagos. If they wanted to see some of the completion accessories, then they could come to our warehouse in Port Harcourt. Although we did two wells in this project, we have the capacity to do five wells back to back.  if we get a contract today, we don’t need to order anything. We have tubing, we have casing accessories, we have well heads and we have completion accessories all in our warehouse in Port Harcourt. We also have a pipe yard here in Lagos because at a point, it was actually easy to move stuff from here to the Warri zone rather than go from Port Harcourt because of the bad road. We still have pipes for about four wells here and five in Port Harcourt, tubing and casing..

You carried out e-logging on the wells too…and did the completion job?

Yes, we bring in top service companies, supervised by ranking Subject Matter Experts, for the e-logging and we pay them for that service. We actually have a contract with them for such services. But we complete the wells …

It is full oil field servicethat you do then.

Totally correct. Everything is on you; the risk is on you and the benefit is on you as the turnkey contractor. So that is like transferring the entire risk to you and you accept that. If you do your job very well and you have competent people, you are probably not taking too much risk and that is the difference between us and others.

Olumide Ilesanmi, General Manager Engineering & Projects

If you did the completion for them you should also know what their current production is.

Well, they haven’t actually run their flow line but off the record, their production is slightly over double.

How much more than 5,000BOPD?

More than that when they open up. They were so impressed with the way we drilled the well and its performance. The first well was the exploration well, Ebendo North. We actually asked them for permission to use these names in publications and they said we can.

Olubukola Okulaja, Managing Director

We did the job and we handed over the wells to them on the 31st of December, 2022. I think people have a totally different idea of turnkey even though turnkey is not new to the industry. But the Matpatson approach to turnkey is new. The old approach to turnkey: The operator appoints a company to drill a section of the hole. The contractor mentions its cost and it is paid and it drills, but the operator runs the casing and the cement (using other contractors). The drilling contractor is now asked to drill the second section hole for a number of days as well and that was the whole idea of what turnkey was. The competencies were largely retained with the operator but today, the competencies are with us (the drilling contractor, outside the Operator’s system). If you don’t have anybody at all, you can hire a consultant to take a look at what we do, we have all the competencies; not just the drilling competences. What we have done which is different is that for every critical item, we have a subject matter expert. Drilling of course comes under our umbrella. The project manager on the Ebendo work was Olumide Ilesanmi here, our General Manager, Engineering & Projects. He managed everything.

Regarding specialist subject matter experts we have, for open hole wireline, someone who had worked for Schlumberger before for 25 years. For well testing, we have somebody who has worked for Halliburton for like 20 years who is our SME. For mud engineering, we have someone like Dr. Victor Maduka. These people oversee those critical items while the rest are drilling supervisors. If your programme is properly written and the well is properly engineered, those guys are able to carry out the instructions very well. We have performed and done very well.

We have talked about SMEs but what about the people below them? What Matpatson has done is typically to pick up some of our engineers and drilling supervisors from NYSC and train them up. Do you know that Matpatson has a training school?


The full interview is published in the January/February 2023 edition of Africa Oil+Gas Report, which will be distributed to participants at the Sub-Saharan Africa International Petroleum Exhibition and Conference (SAIPEC) scheduled for February 14-16 2023 at the Eko Convention Centre in Lagos, Nigeria. It will subsequently be published on this website.



ReconAfrica: Well Meaning, Just Careless

By Toyin Akinosho, Lagos, Nigeria

After a swirl of good press featuring salutary articles about its daring into an under explored frontier basin and encountering a working petroleum system, ReconAfrica now appears to have arrived at that point where all the spears are aimed at it.

The Canadian independent is entangled in a class action suit in New York, United States, filed by shareholders who accuse it of issuing misleading statements that convinced them to buy shares between February 2019 and September 2021 – shares that have since tanked in value. “Defendants concealed material information from the public about the data from their first two oil and gas test wells, and about their plans to frack in Namibia, while selling millions of dollars of ReconAfrica stock to unsuspecting investors,” lawyers for the aggrieved investors wrote in papers filed in court.

ReconAfrica, in 2021, drilled two stratigraphic test wells in a very large, previously unregarded sedimentary basin, called the Kavango Basin onshore northern Namibia.  The 6-1 and 6-2 wells, the company reported, intersected over 300 metres  and 200metres of oil and gas shows respectively. ReconAfrica did not call any of these a discovery. Indeed, it stated clearly that “the two wells were drilled to provide stratigraphic, sedimentological, reservoir and geochemical information”.  Although the data in both wells was very positive, neither 6-1 nor 6-2 was tested since they were designed to be only stratigraphic wells.

Makandina 8-2, which was ReconAfrica’s third well in the basin, was the company’s first seismically defined probe in the campaign. It failed to encounter economic accumulations of hydrocarbons. The company placed the blame on the absence of a trap or a four-way dip closure.

But a lot of the complaints about ReconAfrica today is associated with claims that the explorer convinced people to buy shares, as if it went to town screaming: “Hey we have a hydrocarbon discovery here!” From a technical viewpoint, I think ReconAfrica did an amazing job defining an unknown basin using aero-gravity data.

But I also think they should not have started drilling before any seismic was recorded and interpreted.  I consider it sheer carelessness on their part not to have brought in test equipment for the first well, even it was called a stratigraphic well.  Had ReconAfrica tested even a small amount of oil, even as low as 500Barrels of Oil Per Day, it would have established their credibility.  But with no testing, nothing solid is known, just speculation.

The stock has been extremely volatile and this has been accelerated by the short sellers.

I wasn’t surprised that the Namibia government sold its half of its equity back to ReconAfrica. No.

I know the Namibian government to be extremely risk averse. You just need to take a look at its attitude to the Kudu field development (space will not permit me to go into that here) to understand the psychology behind its bailing out of Kavango.

One cynical report about ReconAfrica’s operations, published in the Daily Maverick, a widely respected South African platform, had a sentence that leapt at me: “Announcing the results of the third well in November, ReconAfrica said it had found no commercial oil, but still insisted that the data confirmed the presence of a working petroleum system”. That’s an extremely clueless statement.

Personally, I wish ReconAfrica a lot of luck. It’s a brave adventurer who came to forage for hydrocarbon in an unexplored miogeosyncline at a time (yes, right at the height of the pandemic) when nothing was happening anywhere.

Toyin Akinosho, publisher of Africa Oil+Gas Report, is a petroleum geoscientist of over three decades’ postgraduate experience.


CNOOC Starts a Widely Anticipated Frontier Drilling in Deepwater Gabon

China National Offshore Operating Company CNOOC, the Chinese state-owned E&P behemoth, has commenced a wildcat, as scheduled, in deepwaters offshore Gabon.

Tigre-1 is one of six frontier probes listed by analysts as possible basin opening wells in Africa.

The well is being drilled by the mobile offshore drilling unit (MODU) Stena Icemax in blocks BC-9 and BCD-10. The latter was where Shell encountered 200 metres of net gas pay while drilling the Leopard-1 wildcat in 2014. Shell was excited by the result at the time and there were speculations (that Shell did not refute), of potential resource of 10Trillion cubic feet of gas in the Leopard structure, which is located below a salt (carbonate) formation.

Shell has since divested from the asset,as Gabon’s fiscal terms as of then did not allow for commercialization of natural.  CNOOC Ltd, its partner in the 2014 discovery, took over 100% and operatorship of both assets in an acquisition finalized in 2019. CNOOC’s ongoing drilling is targeting oil, downslope of Shell’s Leopard 1.

The drilling programme is crucial for Gabon, which has struggled, in vain for the last 30 years, to find itself in the deepwater production map of the world. It is the only African oil producing country, lying on the edge of the south Atlantic, without crude oil or gas output from the deepwater terrain.



Zimbabwe’s Mikuyu-1: Invictus Never Pronounced a Discovery

By Sully Manope, in Windhoek

Media reports about the conclusion of the Mikuyu-1 and Mikuyu-1 Sidetrack have played up the number of hydrocarbons shows encountered by these keenly watched wildcats.

But Invictus Energy, the Australian listed operator and 80% equity holder ofthe SG 4571 licence in Zimbabwe’s Cabora Bassa Basin, has never uttered the word “discovery” in any of its correspondences on the subject.

The company’s focus on identification of ”13 potential hydrocarbon bearing zones and combined 225metre gross potential hydrocarbon bearing zones identified in primary Upper Angwa target”, which have become  attention grabbing headlines, could, however create a “ReconAfrica Moment” for Invictus, as it can edge on investors to mentally mapping the “lead time” to first oil.

The company admits that “some gross intervals may contain significant proportions of non-net reservoir. Further log calibration will be obtained following completion of side wall core analysis”.

What is more, there were several challenges that Invictus faced in the process of drilling and they should have been farther up in the press releases than they are. A few:

  • Wireline log interpretation calculated porosity of up to 15% and gas saturation of up to 90% in selected potential pay zones in the Upper Angwa but are yet to be calibrated with fluid and core data and subsequently subject to wide margins of error.
  • Weak to strong hydrocarbon fluorescence was noted from approximately 2,100metre Measured Depth (mMD) in the Pebbly Arkose and was consistent to TD at 3,923mMD, with up to 100% fluorescence observed in some cuttings and side wall cores.
  • Further reservoir and potential pay intervals in the Upper Angwa intersected when the Mukuyu1 well was deepened from 3,618 to 3,923m could not be fully evaluated due to a breakdown in the borehole, preventing logging of the deepened section.

Invictus is still interpreting the well data with results to be integrated into the seismic interpretation and basin models to guide future well locations and exploration prospect selection. Of note is that planning has commenced for Mukuyu appraisal & Phase 2 drilling and evaluation.

The Company is now assessing the forward work programme and a range of targets for the first well in its Phase 2 drilling campaign, including Mukuyu-2 and Baobab-1, as well as other promising exploration prospects identified across the wider Cabora Bassa acreage. The timing of the forward exploration and drilling will be determined following the completion of long lead and well services tendering exercises which are commencing imminently.

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