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Brazillian Discoveries Dominate Cape Town Meet

By Tako Koning, Luanda, Angola

Some of the best attended presentations at the most recent international convention of geoscientists were those on the recent pre-salt oil and gas discoveries in Brazil.

With newly discovered fields such as the Tupis field having estimated reserves of eight billion barrels oil, many explorationists could not help but speculate on the importance of this play on the presalt basins which are on the conjugate margins along the coast of West Africa from Gabon down to Namibia.

This pre-salt play may be especially relevant to Angola where the pre-salt sag basin is both extensive and has barely been penetrated by the drill bit.

Approximately 1,700 registrants from all over the globe were present at the 2008 International Convention and Exhibition of the American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG), held October 26-29 2008, in the beautiful South African city of Cape Town.

For anyone focused on Africa oil and gas exploration and production, Cape Town was the place to be.

The theme of this conference was “African Energy: Global Impact”. An extensive programme of oral and poster paper presentations were held based on the following themes:

Deepwater Reservoir Systems – A Global Perspective, “Global Advances in GeosciencesNext Generation Tools and Techniques, The New Business of Energy; Global Coal, CBM, Gas Hydrates, C02, Remediation Gondwana and Pangean Petroleum Systems: Africa, Middle East, South Atlantic, Caspian, Mediterranean, Arctic and Asia-Pacific. A wide variety of pre-conference and post- conference geological field trips were held in the general Cape Town area as well as further away to the Karoo Basin of South Africa and the Zerrissene Turbidite System in southern Namibia. One of the outstanding opportunities at this particular conference was for geoscientists to be able to view approximately 450 meters of turbidite drill cores from South Africa and Angola. PetroSA provided representative cores of all sedimentary facies from the Bredasdorp Basin, offshore South Africa. TOTAL and Chevron were able to obtain Angola government approval as well as their partners’ approvals to show many meters of turbidite channels cores from deepwater Blocks 17 and 14.

The 2009 AAPG International Convention and Exhibition will be held in November in Rio de Janeiro. All indications are that an equally interesting and extensive array of presentations and field trips will be available to the attendees in Rio, 2009.

Koning, a former Exploration Director at Texaco and later Chevron, is a member of the editorial advisory board of Africa Oil+Gas Report.

BP Orders FPSO from Jurong

Jurong Shipyard has secured an approximately $132.75 million contract to convert the Very Large Crude Carrier (VLCC) tanker, the IVIV “PSVM” (ex Bourgogne), to a Floating Production Storage and Offloading (FPSO) vessel for MODEC.

This conversion contract involves the installation of an external turret mooring system and process facilities, which include gas turbine generators, oil separation, gas injection/gas lift and water injection system. Planned delivery to MODEC is 1Q 2011.

The FPSO is designed to operate for 20 years without dry-docking, and it will have a production capacity of 150,000 barrels of oil per day and a storage capacity of 1,600,000 barrels of oil.

The FPSO will be delivered to BP for deployment in the Plutao, Saturno, Venus and Marte (“PSVM”) Fields in Block 31 offshore Angola, located in water depths of between 1,500 and 2,500m.

This conversion contract is not expected to have any material impact on the net tangible assets and earnings per share of Sembcorp Marine for the year ending December 31, 2008.

Botswana’s Coal To Power Plant Gets Ahead

While other miners and hopefuls find themselves forced into delays and cutbacks because of funding woes and low commodity prices, Toronto-based CIC Energy is pressing ahead with plans to build a coal mine and power station at its Mmamabula project, in Botswana. The firm has now completed a mine plan for the 4.5Million tons a year coal mine and announced the selection of Chinese mechanical and electrical equipment manufacturer Shanghai Electric as the preferred engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contractor for the initial power plant.

The company aimed to have submitted a mining licence application to the government of Botswana by end of 2008, and should begin the procurement process for the development of the mine and the associated infrastructure in 2009.

A turnkey EPC contract will be awarded for the manufacturing and erection of the wash plant and discussions are “well advanced” with the preferred contractor, the company reported. The coal crushing system and associated coal conveyor system will also be tendered for a turnkey EPC contract, and the procurement process for the equipment required for steady state mining will get under way in early 2009.

T h e M m a m a b u I a coalfield contains an estimated 2.93billion tons of coal in the measured and indicated categories, plus 34-million tons of inferred resources.

Despite a debilitating shortage of electricity supply in the Southern African region, the company had to abandon plans earlier in 2008 to award contracts for a 2,400-MW project, after its off takers, South Africa’s Eskom and the Botswana Power Corporation, were unable to agree on assuming risk for the project in order to meet lender requirements.

However, the firm now expects to sign 30-year off take agreements with both utilities by mid-2009, by which time it should also have a funding agreement in place.

The capital cost to build the mine and power station has been estimated at $3billion, and the company is in talks with development finance institutions, South African commercial banks and a Chinese export credit agency, which is being targeted for a “large segment” of the project funding.

CIC is not concerned by the impact of the financial crisis on the company’s ability to raise funds, because the lenders that it was targeting had not been affected as much as commercial banks.

In the meantime, the firm will fund early infrastructure work on the project from its $89-million treasury.

It has already begun a formal tender process for early work like site clearing, earthworks, roads, water-supply and wastewater treatment facilities, and plans td use local contractors in Botswana as much as possible.

Angola Takes Over OPEC

Angola will lead the Oil Producing and Exporting Countries OPEC from the front in January 2009, as the southwest African country is elected president of the cartel for the next one year.

Angola joined the influential group, which produces close to 40% of the world’s total output of crude oil, two years ago. It is the second consecutive African country to be president of the organisation and the third, in the last four years. Algeria presided over the cartel throughout 2008. Nigeria was the president in 2006.

The day to day implementation of the group’s policy is overseen by the Secretary General, who is essentially a technocrat. This time, he is also an African. Abdalla Sam El Badri is a 68 year old Libyan accountant who started his career spending 12 years with with ExxonMobil between 1965 and 1977.

In effect, Africa has run OPEC for the period of the highest crude oil prices in history.

The presidency of OPEC is not exactly an executive job and decision making is essentially consultative.

Still, the Angolans sound like they are making it personal. “The price of oil has reached levels that OPEC members want to see improve during our presidency,” Botelho de Vasconcelos said in comments broadcast on Radio Nacional de Angola in late December 2008.”We will try to maintain that stance,” he said, OPEC oil ministers agreed their deepest output cut ever in mid- December 2008 cutting 2,2-million barrels per day from markets in a race to balance supply with rapidly dwindling demand for fuel.

The aim was to build a floor under prices that have dropped more than $100 from a July 2008 peak above $147 a barrel, to levels where the economies of several OPEC members are hurting.

As a new member that joined OPEC in 2007, Angola is expected to use the 12-month rotating presidency as a platform to spread its regional influence and shed an image of a country ruined by corruption and war.

The government of Angola is relying on an oil price above $55 per barrel to carry out a record $42billion spending plan in 2009.

The country emerged from nearly three decades of civil war as one of the world’s fastest growing economies due to surging oil output. Angola, dependent on oil for 90 percent of its income, produces around 1.8Million barrels of oil per day.

United Bank of Africa analyst Richard Segal said Angola was in a good position to set an example to OPEC members, some of which find difficulty in adhering to the group’s output cut decisions, as it has the flexibility to constrain production.

“Angola’s production costs are relatively low, its economy is stabilised at a lower oil price and it has a lot more oil production per capita than most other OPEC countries,” he said, adding it could also mediate between some of OPEC’s members.

“OPEC is a complicated organization …and even within the countries there are conflicting views — so the best Angola can do is provide leadership and play the role of a mediator.”

To the west Angola has the Gulf of Guinea, where it rivals Nigeria as Africa’s top oil producer. It is among the main oil exporters to China and the sixth biggest to the United States.

“We intend to dignify our country during the presidency,” said Botelho de Vasconcelos. “The presidency of OPEC is a mandate with big visibility and with a great deal of thought and some discretion, we will do our best”.

Algeria’s Oil and Gas Income likely $76bn in 2008

Algerian oil and gas revenue could reach a record high of $76billion in 2008,Energy and Mines Minister Chakib Khelil has been was quoted as saying. This compares favourably with $59billion in 2007. ‘The expected revenues of between $75billion and $76-billion are a record,” the official APS news agency quoted him as saying.

Algeria’s state energy conglomerate Sonatrach earned $57billion in 2007 from producing and selling oil and gas, while the state earned a further $2billion from a windfall tax on the earnings of foreign energy firms operating in Algeria.

Khelil said in May 2008 that Sonatrach expected to earn about $81billion in 2008 if oil prices stayed high. Prices at the time were about $111 a barrel and have since collapsed to around $45.

British Petroleum, Amerada Hess, Statoil, Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Repsol and TOTALare the main foreign companies involved in exploration and production of hydrocarbons in Algeria.

Mozambique Gets Funding For Power Project

The World Bank has released $88Million to fund the construction of transmission lines to carry power from Mozambique’s Cahora Bassa Hydroelectric (HCB) dam to Malawi.

The power transmission line, to be erected as part of a Southern Africa Development Community (SADC) energy co-operation agreement, will have an average capacity rating of 300 megawatts (MW). The project is expected to get underway in 2009, following a public tender for the venture.

$43 million of the World Bank funding is to be used for projects in Mozambique and the remaining $45 million in Malawi. Mozambique will enlarge the Matambo substation (in Tete province) and build transmission lines to the Malawian frontier, from where Malawi’s utility will construct a line to the Phombeya region, site of a planned new substation being built as part of the same project.

The new infrastructure is expected to boost Mozambique’s position as one of the primary electricity exporters in the region at a time when the energy crisis demands increased cross-border cooperation to respond to potential negative impacts on development projects. Mozambique is aggressively investing in its power infrastructure to solve the regional power crunch, which had caused many mega-projects to grind to a halt.

The government has approved the construction of an $800 million power station in the northern province of Tete starting from 2009, to boost regional power supplies. Building another power station would increase Mozambique’s capacity to export electricity to other southern African countries, which have been affected by a power crisis.

HCB has exhausted the maximum capacity of 2,075 MW of power it could produce from its generators on the southern bank of the Cahora Bassa river.

HCB, which suffered decades of neglect and lack of investment, now provides 60% of its power to South Africa’s state utility Eskom and 35 percent to the Zimbabwe Electricity Supply Authority (ZESA).

Mozambique consumes the rest of the power.  Only 15 percent of the country’s 20 million people have access to electricity.

First Oil from Uge Not Anytime Soon

Partner issues have forced the postponement of first oil from ExxonMobil operated deepwater Uge field from 2013. “We cannot say for certain whether the field would even get on stream by 2015,” say officials of the state hydrocarbon company NNPC, whose decisions are central to the delay. NNPC has ruled against the operator’s plan to refurbish and deploy the Falcon, first used on the company’s shallow offshore Yoho field, to the smaller Uge field. NNPC, with the support of other partners in the project, has instead called for a new build FPSO, which ExxonMobil complains has pushed up costs. Uge was discovered in 2005 in 1,350 metres of water in the Oil Prospecting lease (OPL 214) in the Western Niger Delta, offshore Nigeria. An appraisal well confirmed the discovery and provided the major input for a field development plan that called for at least two more wells to drain the reservoirs. ExxonMobil operates the OPL 214 with 20%. Partners include Phillips 20%, Chevron 20%, Occidental 20%, NPDC 15°o and Sasol 5%.

PGS In Best Quarter Ever

With strong Multiclient sale in West Africa and Brazil, and an overall robust performance by the group, PGS has announced its best quarter ever with an increase in revenues and earnings before interest and tax (“EBIT”) of 15% and 12% respectively from previous records.

The order book increased in the third quarter of 2008 to $ 1,193 million.

MultiClient late sales were $48.2 million in the third quarter of 2008 compared to $47.7 million in the third quarter of 2007, an increase of $0.5 million, or 1%, primarily reflecting increased sales in Brazil and West Africa, offset by lower sales in Gulf of Mexico and Europe. Record order book: Order book at the end of the third quarter of 2008 was $933 million for Marine and $260 million for Onshore, up a total of 1000 from Q2 2008.

Overall the Norweigian geophysical acquisition and processing company had revenues of $534.3 million, up $95.2 million (22%) from Q3 2007 and $69.2 million from previous record set in Q2 2008. EBIT of $187.8 million, up $20.4 million (12%) compared to the record set in third quarter of 2007.

“We delivered the strongest quarterly operating profit ever. Our order book of approximately $1.2 billion, combined with our sound profitability and competitive operations, provide a strong platform going forward. In addition, we have robust financing in place with very attractive terms and mainly fixed interest rates”, commented Jon Erik Reinhardsen, President and Chief Executive Officer of PGS.


World Bank Spends $2.7 Billion On Green Energy

World Bank funding for efficient and renewable energy rose 87% in 2008 to nearly $2.7billion, reflecting the importance of moving to a low-carbon economy. Funding in fiscal 2008, ending June 30, was nearly double the previous year’s $1,4billion, which in turn was 67% higher than in fiscal 2006. Investment in “green” energy projects is essential for poor countries hit hard by soaring oil prices, says Jamal Saghir, World Bank Director for Energy, Transport and Water. “What’s affecting the poor countries is not only the oil price increase, it’s the volatility as well which is creating vulnerability at the same time,” Saghir says. “That’s why you look at alternative sources of energy.”

Rising traditional energy prices has made alternative energy, such as wind power, more attractive and affordable in the developing world. Commitments for 2008, including carbon finance operations and support from the Global Environment Facility, consisted of the following:

  • “$1,1-billion for energy efficiency;
  • “$476-million for new renewable energy projects including wind, solar, biomass, geothermal and hydropower projects that will generate up to 10 MW per facility;
  • “$1-billion for hydropower projects with capacities of more than 10 MW per facility.

Fear of the effects of climate change also encourages developing countries to find ways of emitting less climate-warming carbon, Saghir argues. The high cost of traditional energy and acute power shortages have spurred demand for energy efficiency projects, according to a statement by the bank. Such projects are being put in place in China, Pakistan, Argentina, Ukraine, Burundi and Zambia, among other countries.

OPEC Reduced Growth Forecast, Cuts Production

OPEC, the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries, has slashed its oil consumption growth forecasts for the rest of 2008  and 2009. The cartel has also agreed to cut production by 1.5 million barrels a day (BOPD).

The reduction in forecast growth is principally because of an “excessive” easing of demand in the United States, where many analysts foresee a recession looming. The

Production cut, however, responds to a more urgent situation: an ‘unprecedented’ fall in prices and fears over short-term demand.

OPEC lowered its estimate for growth in demand for the rest of 2008 by 330,000 barrels per day to 550,000 BOPD, giving average total demand of about 86.5 million BOPD. For 2009, it cut its forecast by 100,000 BOPD to 800,000 BOPD, to put average total demand at 87.2 million barrels per day.

The group says that the drop in oil prices could lead to the cancellation of existing oil projects, resulting in a medium-term supply shortage. “Oil prices have witnessed a dramatic collapse, unprecedented in speed and magnitude.. .which may put at jeopardy many existing oil projects and lead to the cancellation or delay of others.”

The 1.5 million BOPD cut will bring the current production ceiling of 28.8 million BOPD to 27.3 million BOPD, from November 1, 2008. It is the first production cut made by OPEC in two years. The decision will be reviewed at its next scheduled meeting in Algeria on December 17, 2008.

OPEC has called on non-OPEC producers and exporters to restore prices to “reasonable levels”, saying it cannot be expected to bear the burden of restoring equilibrium to the market on its own. Weak US oil demand would bear down on the oil market “at least in the first half of 2009.”

It cited US figures to the effect that American motorists cut their driven mileage by 62.6 billion miles (100 billion km) in the first nine months of 2008. This reduction, in large part a response to higher oil prices, reduced cut total gasoline (petrol) consumption by 250 000 barrels per day.

Total US oil consumption had continued to decline “in the last month of the summer” by 7.6 percent or 1.6 million barrels per day on a 12-month basis.

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