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OPEC Quota Crimps Indie’s Output in Gabon

Paris based minnow, Maurel et Prom (M&P) reports its working interest oil production (80%) in Gabon’s onshore Ezanga permit dropping by a whopping 14% in the first nine months of the year, compared with the same period in 2019.

The volume was 17,500BOPD (gross production: 21,875 bopd) for the first nine months of 2020.

“This was due to production cuts, initially voluntary, then mandatory as a result of OPEC quotas”, the company explains in its most recent update.

“In order to take advantage of the period of low crude prices, M&P had temporarily suspended production from certain wells to improve reservoir conditions for the future starting from May 2020.

“This effort has subsequently continued under the quotas established by OPEC, of which Gabon is a member. Production at the Ezanga field is therefore currently limited to 19,000BOPD (or 15,200BOPD for M&P working interest).


I Disliked Tullow, Then I Loved Tullow, and Now What?

By Toyin Akinosho

I was extremely upset when I learned that Tullow Oil, the Irish independent, had delisted Energy Africa from the Johannesburg Stock Exchange.

The year was 2004. Tullow was on acquisition spree in Africa.

Tullow acquired the Cape Town based company for $500Million.

I was upset because Energy Africa was the one homegrown African independent with an active producing asset inventory around the continent.

It was based in Africa, listed on the continent’s most prosperous bourse and had interests in Equatorial Guinea, Congo, Gabon, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Uganda, Egypt and Namibia. Its producing acreages (in Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Congo) averaged over 20,000 Barrels of Oil Per Day (BOPD) in net output at the time.

I did not know it then, but I was beginning to nurse the sentiment that Africa needed local E&P companies to access acreage licences, operate and extract mineral resources on their own land and build technical and financial capacity on the back of the adventure.

150 years after the first Western mining companies took over vast stretches of continental land and introduced a concept of property rights that favoured them and disadvantaged the natives, they had built fortunes with those assets in their own countries. The best that African companies had become, as of 2004, was to be competent contractors.

At the time, only Nigeria’s Conoil, with about 30,000BOPD in output, operated any producing property with sizable hydrocarbon volume. The other Nigerian owned producing independents, seven of them then, had combined production less than 15,000BOPD.

In South Africa, the only homegrown E&P players were SPI, the Sasol subsidiary, and the state hydrocarbon company, PetroSA. As to why I don’t consider Sasol’s SPI as an African independent, you have to google the company’s history.

There were no comparable homegrown independents in Egypt, Algeria or Angola.

So, Tullow Oil had come from the Western Hemisphere, to shoot down such a stellar African star from the sky. It was pretty depressing.

And this Irish company with a very Irish name, started going about calling itself an African independent.

Tullow claimed it had a reason for the entitlement. It was founded in 1986, primarily to look for and work up small oil fields, which had been left behind by the majors in Africa, with no-one to work them. Its first work programme was to develop some small gas fields in Senegal.

Fast forward 18 years later, the Energy Africa acquisition bolstered this relatively small company.

In 2006, Tullow found oil in Uganda, after Hardman Resources had made the country’s first discovery. The same year, it signed a Petroleum Sharing Contract with the Ghanaian Government for Deepwater Tano Block in 2006. It was a transformative move.

At a conference in Cotonou, Benin Republic, in 2007, I sat through a presentation by Tim O’ Hanlon, then director of Tullow’ Oil’s business development activities in Africa. It was an impassioned speech, brimming with promises of genuine love for the land of my birth.  I became a Fan.

Kosmos Energy’s discovery of the Mahogany field, the first sizable find in Ghana, de-risked Heydua-1, the prospect that Tullow had lined up for drilling in Deepwater Tano. In the event, Heydua turned out to be a straddle play with Mahogany. The unitized field was christened Jubilee and Tullow was appointed operator. In the space of three years, Tullow took Jubilee from discovery to market. By 2010, “Africa’s Leading Independent” had taken off.

Meanwhile, Tullow’s Irish charm was failing to work the magic in Uganda. The Government and a host of civil society groups were demanding more upfront benefits before first oil than the Ghanaians did. There was a part of the Ugandan demand that I lined up behind: would Tullow agree to converting a quarter, even a fifth, of the crude production (after first oil), to petroleum products through a refinery? Tullow demurred, citing bankability issues. The thought came back to me: Africa certainly needs brave local businessmen with industrial scale mindset who, with Government support, would take the risks.

Tullow Oil has never been the largest Western independent operating in Africa. That credit goes to Apache Corp (which also has a higher net hydrocarbon output on the continent, even if the only African country in its portfolio is Egypt), and the defunct Anadarko. Tullow was also never the lead exploration company. In the years that independents were actively foraging in frontier basins that the majors were allegedly not keen on, it was Australia’s Woodside who opened up the Northwest African margin;  Anadarko funded Kosmos Energy’s Ghanaian discovery, and discovered Mozambique and, following the Rovuma basin fairway that Anadarko had proven, BG opened the neighbouring Tanzanian deepwater.

Tullow bore no shame in arriving late and buying entry into the game. But the Irish company was a fast follower.

Then came the company’s 26th year on the continent.  In February 2012, Tullow went into a drilling location in Kenya like any other wildcatter, acting on gut feeling and shooting from the hip, bearing the risk of failure.

Tullow struck oil at a depth shallower than 1,200metres, less than mid-way to the planned 2,700metre depth, in Ngamia 1, in the Turkana County, one of seven sub basins outlined on the Kenyan/Ethiopian concession map.

That discovery conferred even more respect on a company that had benefitted from a carefully deployed publicity machine.

Kenya rolled out the carpet that Uganda didn’t for Tullow. And at some point, it was being suggested that it would take Final Investment Decision on the much smaller Kenyan cluster of fields (about 100,000BOPD at peak) earlier than it would take for Ugandan development (230,000BOPD) peak production.

But who was to know that everything would go downhill from here?

After a number of challenges in East Africa, including the decision by Uganda (prompted by French major TOTAL) to abandon the Kenya route, as well as a considerably drawn out negotiation concerning Tullow’s farm down on its assets in Uganda, Tullow’s shareholders were no longer seeing a clear line of sight to new, significant hydrocarbon production, the type of which happened in Ghana between 2010 (Jubilee) and 2016 (TEN). It portended something about a company that was atrophying, rather growing.

I am running out of space here. Tullow is out of Uganda and it has signaled it was leaving Kenya sooner than later. Production in Ghana will be flat, at best, for a few years and then will start plunging. There is no major new heartland for the company on the continent. Tullow has, in the past six months, ceased calling itself Africa’s Leading Independent. Its reports now bear the title An independent oil and gas company focused on Africa and South America.

This piece was originally published, for the benefit of paying subscribers, in the June 2020 edition of Africa Oil+Gas Report. Sometimes an essay like this is republished in the newsletter; but most times it’s not.

 

 


Gabon, Locked Out, Bangs On The Door

By Fred Akanni, in Libreville

Gabon is hoping to launch a new deep offshore oil licensing round in June 2013, offering licences in its own segment of the pre-salt sequence, which has been imaged by seismic shots that have penetrated layers of sediments deposited during the break-up of the supercontinent in which Africa and South America were joined together.
That supercontinent, named Gondwanaland, included most of the landmasses in today’s Southern Hemisphere, but Africa and South America were particularly tightly knit within that space. The split of Africa/South America, 125 million years ago, resulted in the creation of the south Atlantic. This is why an oil discovery in Brazil could be sometimes seen to be a positive thing for Africa, especially those parts of Africa which were essentially “joined at the hip” with Brazil, when Gondwanaland existed. Those parts include Angola and Gabon.gabon
Previous deepwater exploration in Gabon led to four wells drilled in the lower Congo Basin between 2000 and 2002. A TOTAL led consortium came up with three dry holes, located in water depths in excess of 2,000metres to total depths of 4806metres, 4793metres and 4047metres respectively, all very deep wells, in the Astrid Marin acreage. Agip came up dry at a TD of 2,882metres in Powe Marin 1, drilled in water depth of 1,000metres.
In 2005 Amerada Hess, running on adrenalin from its success foray in deepwater Equatorial Guinea, drilled two equally disappointing wells in deep offshore Ogooue Delta.
There have been explanations for the poor results in the Gabonese deepwater segment of the Oogue Delta and the Lower Congo Basins:
• The Ogoeue Delta is not formed by the kind of large sized rivers like the Congo River which birthed the Congo Basin, or the Niger and Benue rivers which created the Niger Delta.
• The part of the lower Congo Basin that is in deepwater Gabon contains the obligatory hydrocarbon source, but it is buried too deep and the apparent lack of structuration disallows the source to adequately charge the reservoirs. Seismic data doesn’t suggest the presence of large scale canyons that could help deliver products of turbiditic flows into the deeper waters. There have been questions about of whether the direction of flow of the Benguela currents, which impact sediment movement on the Nigerian coast for example, could have anything to do with the possible lack of commercial hydrocarbon reservoirs in deepwater Gabon. The jury is still out on that.
Whatever the explanations, Gabonese authorities say they desperately need to shore up production, which has declined from 365,000BOPD in 1995, to 225,000BOPD in 2012.
New data acquired in the last three years by CCGVeritas have shown up the potentials that inhere in testing the presalt sequence, invoking the theory that if Brazil could find massive volumes of oil in the pre-salt deepwater sequence in Tupi(now Lula)-1 well in the Campos Basin, so can wells in Gabon. The survey included more than 9600km of 2D seismic in Gabon’s southern and northern offshore zones, as well as 4,500 sqkm of 3D and 2D data in the southern zone.
Geologists now know that some of the basins on either side of the south Atlantic were formed at the same time during the rift phase and today are mirror images of each other.
Gabonese authorities believe that the country’s deepwater acquatory has never been properly explored.
Gabon had planned a licencing round for 2010, but postponed it in order to complete the promulgation of a new set of regulations. There were also issues of rising drilling costs and environmental concerns after BP’s massive spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
The percentage the national oil company could hold in the newly licensed fields would depend on its financial capacity but would usually be up to 20%. Approximately it’s between 10% and 20% on (a) commercial basis.
The country was producing around 350,000Barrels of Oil Per Day (BOPD), about the highest in its production history, in the mid 1990s, when countries like Nigeria and Angola started witnessing a series of spectacular discoveries in water depths outboard of 750 metres. As Gabon shares the prolific Congo basin with Angola, and was the third largest oil producer in sub-Saharan Africa, it was expected to be part of the game.


Smit Lamnalco Builds New Vessels For Shell’s Gabon Operations

Anglo Dutch major Shell has renewed its marine support services contract with Smit Lamnalco in Gabon, in a deal that has triggered investment in three auxiliary vessel newbuildings.
The five year contract renewal extends an uninterrupted relationship between the marine support specialist and Shell Gabon dating back to the 1990s. It covers support for Shell Gabon’s tanker operations at the remote Gamba Terminal, south of Port Gentil.
“The trust Shell Gabon has in our services has sustained through the 2011 merger of Lamnalco and SMIT Terminals.” says Aart van der Wal, Managing Director Smit Lamnalco Africa.

Three newbuilds ordered
The renewal covers the deployment, crewing and management of four Smit Lamnalco support vessels, with three newbuilds ordered in mid-November to replace existing tonnage. The orders cover one ‘Shoalbuster’ and one Beach Landing Craft from Damen Shipyards, plus one Fast Offshore Crew Boat from UK-based yard and well-known supplier in West Africa Alnmaritec. An existing ‘Shoalrunner’ auxiliary vessel will remain in place.
“Our willingness to invest in new tonnage was clearly a factor in the renewal” says Mr Van der Wal.
“It is in line with our strategy to offer one of the youngest and most efficient marine and offshore support fleets in the industry.”
The Shoalbuster is a versatile, multi-purpose vessel for harbour, inland and coastal waters, characterised by high bollard pull and ample deck space. Meanwhile, the maneuverability of the 17m long, 25-knot plus, aluminium-hulled fast response vessel will be conferred by its double chine hull and Rolls-Royce Kamewa FF45 water jets.

Localisation programme
Smit Lamnalco has a locally-registered company in Gabon. The group pursues a localisation strategy in terms of employment, crewing and subcontracting. Nearly 75% of the Smit Lamnalco organisation in Gabon is staffed by Gabonese nationals.
Earlier this year, Smit Lamnalco signed a five year contract renewal with Total Gabon covering offshore oilfield support and tanker assistance at the onshore terminal of Cap Lopez, Port Gentil.

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