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Expro Wins $60MM contracts in Western, Southern Africa

EXPRO, THE OIL SERVICE FIRM, HAS won contracts valued at over $60 million in the last six months in West and South African regions. The contracts cover a range of offshore deepwater projects and services and would be delivered on phases over the next three years. The work involved include provision of offshore deepwater technology for Chevron, Agip, Shell in Nigeria as well as increased scope of work from BP deepwater in Angola, as well as for TOTALl and Noble Energy in Cameroon. Another set of contracts were secured in North Africa, including BP and BG in Algeria and Libya together with multiple well- testing contracts in Egypt.


Shell Proves Nigeria Right

MARTYN MNDERHOUD LOOKED up briefly from the presentation and faced the audience. “Somebody said that Zabazaba was a discovery”, he said. “Well, I don’t know”.

Then almost immediately Shell’s Vice President for Exploration and Production in Africa put up a series of slides, indicating that Shell considers Nigeria the best place to look in its deepwater portfolio worldwide. The scene was the banquet hail of the Sheraton Hotel in Abuja, at the conference of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists(NAPE) in November 2006.

In the last three years (2003-2006) almost everyone has lamented the lack of success in ultradeepwater Nigeria. But not Shell. The Anglo Dutch giant has always had a successful story. Shell reported in 2006 that Bobo -l in OPL 322, encountered some 120m of hydrocarbon. Indeed, in his paper, (See illustration) Minderhoud declared Bobo-1 as a “fat cat” discovery. Bobo is located squarely in the ultradeepwater, outboard of 1 ,700m water depth, and its location is not in the Outer Toe Thrust(OTT)Belt area, which has proven quite problematic in terms of structuration for holding hydrocarbon. But if the general rule has been that the farther and deeper from 1 ,600metre water depth you get, the less likely you are to find a significant hydrocarbon tank, then Shell has proven an exception to the rule. Agip’s Dou-1 and Emein-1, OPL 244, both drilled in 2,000m of water encountered marginal gas. Chevron’s Iroko- l(in 2000m WD) in OPL 250, was as much a disappointing story as Phillips Onigun- l (2,200mWD) in OPL 318, Petrobras’s Erinmi-1(2,300mWD) in OPL 324 and Ocean Energy’s Pina-l (in 2,500mWD), which encountered some gas and Tan-1 (2,000m WD) in OPL 256.

While Minderhoud abstained from outright declaration of Zabazaba-l ( 2,000metre water depth) as a discovery, the company has gone ahead to drill Zabazaba 2, an indication that the first well, at least, opened doors to possibilities. Outside the rank wildcat area, Shell is proving up more oil in fields already established.

The January 2007 edition of AAPG Explorer, the influential in house magazine of the largest grouping of earth scientists on the globe, cites Bonga North 2X, as one of the four major discoveries in subsaharan Africa in 2006. Bonga North 2 X is the dual leg appraisal to the Bonga North 11X discovery in OML 118, where the Bonga main, (the main field of the Bonga structure) is producing over 200,000BOPD, or at least 8% of Nigeria’s entire production, today.

AAPG Explorer says that “Shell is trying to prove up enough reserves (500MMBO+) that could lead to Bonga North being developed separately from Bonga”. But Shell sources say that the Bonga North field will be tied to the FPSO of the Bonga main.

Meanwhile, plans have progressed with Chevron to develop Bonga South-West/ Aparo (Chevron’s Aparo wells probed the same sands as Bonga South West, hence a unitization proposal). This means two projects of some 1 50,000B0PD each, at peak, apart from Bonga. Translation; on the Bonga structure and its satellites alone, the company is going to be  exploiting, by 2015, three fields delivering a total of at least 500,000BOPD.

One key beneficiary of this is ExxonMobil, who holds 43.7% interest in OML 118. The company will be rewarded whenever these fields come on stream; and it doesn’t even have to lift a finger. Shell itself has 43.7% in ExxonMobil’s OML 133, which hosts the Erha and Erha North fields, producing 230,000BOPD today. The two largest oil producers in Nigeria thus currently deliver close to 500,000BOPD, roughly one fifth of the country’s total production, from deepwater. ExxonMobil’s rich pickings apart, Nigeria has made a rebound in exploration effort in deepwater, an indication that the overall pessimism that hung over the terrain two years ago, is wearing off. Eleven wildcats were spudded in deepwater Nigeria in 2006, a figure which is higher than all the exploratory wells drilled in both shallow water and land last year.

Chevron’s Obo 1 is one play that may put to lie the perception that the outer toe thrust belt is a no no. AAPG Explorer reports that the first deepwater well in the Joint Development Zione (JDZ0 between Nigeria and Sao Tome et Principe, “encountered a cumulative 45 metres of net hydrocarbon pay in multiple reservoirs”.

The magazine said: “Reserves are runmoured to be not as large as expected, leading to speculation that the well was not sited at the most prospective location but rather on the edges of a major structure to check its extent”. As new discoveries show up with less and less reserves than the first set of discoveries, in just 10 years of exploration, there is a spirited debate on the knowledge base regarding the thrust belt features in the Niger Delta deepwater.


Mauritania breaks A Dry White Season

The discovery of the Chinguetti field, nestled in 800 metres of water off Mauritania, called attention to the country as a prime destination for oil and gas explorationists. But the initial skepticism of the size of the Mauritanian play, among earth scientists, especially in major companies, seems to be returning, with the spate of dry holes witnessed in the country in the last one year.

So when the UK operator Dana Petroleum abandoned wildcat Aigrette 1 as an oil discovery in the offshore Block 7 last December, it was a welcome breath of fresh air in an environment that had started becoming suffocated with news of disappointing encounters.

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Equatorial Guinea: Progress Stalls on Exploration Front

THE MOST CURRENT NEWS on the West African fairway is that Equatorial Guinea is trying to be a large gas supplier to the United States.

It makes a lot of sense, considering that progress is not as vigorous as it used to be in the deepwater- until recently- the country’s core hydrocarbon business. There has been little significant development on the exploration front in deepwater Equatorial Guinea since 2005.
In the only exploration well drilled in 2006, operator Chevron plugged and abandoned L-2, its second (wildcat) well in Rio Muni’s Block L in May 2006, after failing to encounter hydrocarbons. L-2 was drilled on the Banyan prospect, with the hope of testing the hydrocarbon potential of a Campanian reservoir. The well is located in 1,980m Water Depth.  It went a further 2,000 meters to TD at 4,076m.  Block L is located in the Rio Muni Basin.  It covers 2,584 sq km west of Devon’s Block P and includes grid blocks I-15, I-16 and part of blocks J-14 and J-15.  The tract was reduced by 40% upon renewal in October 2005. The company almost immediately indicated that it was walking out of the block and by implication, out of the country.

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