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Will the Current Drilling in Tobias Oil Field Bring New Life to Angola’s Onshore Kwanza Basin?

By Tako Koning, Calgary, Canada

Oil industry analysts and observers, both Angola-based and overseas, are closely watching a well testing programme underway in the Tobias oil field, located in the onshore Kwanza Basin, approximately 90 kilometres south of Angola’s capital city of Luanda.

This oil field has been inactive since it was abandoned in 1998 during Angola’s long civil war.

However, Sonangol – Angola’s state oil company and London-based Corcel Plc are attempting to bring life back into Tobias.

In the past half year they have drilled two wells, Tobias-13 and Tobias-14 in the Tobias field and have embarked on testing both wells.  Should they be successful, this could lead to a sharply rejuvenated interest in other opportunities within the basin.

History of Exploration and Production in the Onshore Kwanza Basin

The onshore Kwanza Basin was the first basin in Angola to have undergone oil exploration and development.  The first-ever well to be drilled for oil was in 1915 in the valley of the Dande River about 40 kilometres northeast of Luanda.  Oil exploration occurred sporadically for the next four decades with no commercial success.  The Belgium-based oil company Petrofina was the most active of the oil companies in the basin.  Petrofina drilled Angola’s first commercial oil discovery at Benfica, near Luanda in 1955.  Oil production commenced in the same year and eventually 80Million barrels of oil were produced from the onshore Kwanza Basin. The oil was delivered through a small diameter pipeline to the Petrofina refinery in Luanda.  The company achieved maximum production in 1988 when it delivered 18,000Barrels of Oil Per Day (BOPD).  About half of this oil was from eight fields which produced from the Lower Cretaceous-age Binga Formation limestones and the other half was from Miocene-age sandstones in the Quenguela North field.

Due to escalation of Angola’s civil war and the danger of attacks by the rebel faction UNITA, Petrofina stopped producing oil in 1998 and terminated all its field developments in the basin. Consequently, ten small oil fields remained unproduced or under-produced and eventually the fields fell into a state of disrepair.  In the past half decade, a few bid rounds have taken place where several blocks were available for acquisition.  Sonangol and some small Angolan oil companies and junior international oil companies are interested in rehabilitating the old oil fields using modern oil field technology. The Angolan companies have included Somoil, Simples Oil, Tusker Energy and Mineral One.  Edmonton, Canada-based MTI Energy has also obtained operatorship and non-operatorship in a number of blocks in the onshore Kwanza and onshore Lower Congo Basins.

Re-development of the Tobias Oil Field

In the past year, a high-profile event has been the drilling of two wells in the Tobias oil field in 2023 by Sonangol and Corcel Plc. This has resulted in a much-heightened interest by oil companies in the onshore Kwanza Basin.

The Tobias field is situated onshore in the southern area of the Kwanza Basin. The field consists of 12 historic vertical wells drilled in the 1960s and 1970s by Petrofina.   The discovery well, Tobias-2 was drilled in 1961 and discovered oil in the limestones of the Binga Formation.  Tobias is structurally a deformed anticline approximately eight (8) kilometres long and 1 kilometre wide. The Binga in Tobias is a low porosity limestone with an average of 2.0% porosity but locally the matrix porosity can be in the order of 14%, according to legacy 1983 and 1991 publications by Schlumberger.  Production is possible mainly because of the intense faulting and fracturing resulting from the folding of this structure.  The Tuenza evaporites serve as the caprock.

Structural cross-section across the Tobias oil field, onshore Kwanza Basin. From: Schlumberger, 1991 (Well Evaluation Conference, Luanda).

Oil in the Tobias field has a density of 31 degrees API.  The top of the reservoir is at a depth of 520metres (1,710 feet).  The initial oil column was 350 metres (1,150 feet) and the bottom hole pressure was 53kg/cm2. Due to the intense natural fractures in the Binga, the initial oil production was high at 12,000BOPD by solution gas drive (Schlumberger, 1983).  However, production dropped rapidly, and water injection was necessary to maintain production.  Prior to Tobias being abandoned by Petrofina, the field produced a total of 29Million barrels of oil.

Corcel Plc has a 20% working interest (18% net) in Block KON-11 which is operated by Sonangol. Corcel is an Angolan – Brazilian oil and gas company focused on onshore upstream development as well as mining and mineral resources development.  Corcel also has a 22.5% working interest in Kwanza Basin Block KON-12 and 31.5% in KON-16.

Corcel is an AIM-listed company.  The Alternative Investment Market (AIM) is the London Stock Exchange’s (LSE’s) international market for small and medium size growth companies.

Corcel announced that Tobias-13, which was spud in September 2023 was drilled at a downdip location from historic production and reached its target depth of 959metres. Corcel’s press release mentioned that the full Binga reservoir section of about 120metres was encountered in the well as prognosed and intersected 80metres of Binga reservoir with several potentially productive zones in multiple intervals.  Corcel stated that the results of Tobias-13 implies significant hydrocarbon potential remaining.

Tobias-14 was drilled directly after Tobias-13 to its target depth of 781metres.  In a December 28, 2023 press release, Corcel said that Tobias-14 was located at the top of the Tobias anticlinal structure and is an offset to Tobias-4, the largest historic producer in the field, which produced 12,580BOPD at its peak, albeit penetrating only the first eight (8) metres of the reservoir. Tobias-14 penetrated a full Binga reservoir section of about 80 metres with identical zones encountered as in Tobias-13 and had oil shows throughout.  Tobias-14 drilling encountered highly fractured oolitic limestones in the reservoir with good primary porosity values in the range of 4 – 14%. Corcel believes that the porosity is enhanced by the extensive, naturally fractured carbonate system.  Initial pressure readings support Corcel’s predrill thesis that the reservoir has returned to its original pressure values through active recharge of the system.  Tobias-14 found no presence of water despite Tobias-4 watering out at the end of its production life. Corcel believes that this indicates the field has been fully re-equilibrated.

Tobias-14 and Tobias-13 Well Testing Programme

In a February 12, 2024 press release, Corcel announced that testing of Tobias-14 has formally begun. Delays in the start of the testing have been encountered over recent weeks primarily due to longer than expected timelines for deliveries of required testing equipment, combined with severe inclement weather at the well location, which included heavy rains and regional flooding.

Once completed, the Operator, Sonangol will then move the test equipment to the Tobias-13 well pad, which is already being prepared for testing, and will conduct flow testing on the Tobias-13 well.  Testing of both wells will determine formation pressures and ultimately the flow rates. Sonangol and Corcel believe the results will allow them to restart production via an early production system (EPS).

Various companies and oil industry analysts are closely watching the oil industry media for announcements on the Tobias wells testing programme.  If favorable results are achieved, then this would send out the message that there is positive life left in the other old oil fields in the Kwanza Basin.  This could start a stampede of companies exploring for oil in similar fields or focus on greenfield exploration.

It is evident that the investment community has high hopes for positive news from Tobias.  One year ago, Corcel’s share price was 0.25 British pence per share.  Their share price quadrupled to the current price of 1.0 pence.


Tako Koning is Holland-born and Canada-raised.  He has a B.Sc. in Geology from the University of Alberta and a B.A. in Economics from the University of Calgary.  He lives in his home city of Calgary, Canada.   During his long career in the Canadian oil industry, he also lived and worked in Indonesia from 1980 – 1986, Nigeria from 1992 – 1995, and Angola from 1995 – 2015. He was employed primarily by Texaco and also by Tullow Oil (Angola Block 1/06) and Gaffney, Cline & Associates. He has driven through most of the onshore Kwanza Basin and had the opportunity to study the basin’s outcrop geology as well as visit some of the abandoned oil fields including the Tobias, Galinda and Quenguela North.  He is pleased to share his knowledge in this article.  For the past 23 years, he has been a member of the International Advisory Board of Africa Oil + Gas Report (AOGR) since it was founded in 2001 in Lagos, Nigeria by Toyin Akinosho.

Angola Regulator Expects 16% Jump in Drilling Activity 

Angola National Oil, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) has announced that 43 oil wells are planned to be drilled in 2024, six more wells compared to the 37 wells drilled in 2023.

The agency lamented that the country is currently producing 1.1Million barrels daily, “quantities that would reach 1.2 million barrels of oil per day, if it weren’t for the daily losses of 90 thousand barrels of oil.

“In the last five years, the country recorded unplanned production losses of around 170Million barrels of oil, due to the aging of most of the concessions, designed to operate between 15 and 20 years, some already having existed for over 60 years”, said ANPG production director, Ana Rosa Miala.

“And our large installations such as Girassol and Dália are already more than 20 years old and this means that the systems in these installations have more failures, the failures are more recurrent. Regular preventive maintenance is no longer enough to mitigate these failures, greater effort and investment are required”, she explained.

To mitigate the sharp decline in production the agency said, “bidding for new concessions was resumed, and incentives were created for the continuous stay of the country’s old investors and the entry of new ones.

Paulino Jerónimo, the outgoing president of the board of directors of ANPG, told the press that the five-year-old regulatory agency had essentially grown in a period of tumult. Two of ANPG’s five years in existence were marked by the COVID-19 pandemic, which constituted “a great challenge” for the agency.



Africa and Latin America set to lead high-impact well drilling in 2024, eyeing rebound after poor 2023

By Rystad Energy

The upstream industry hopes 2024 can be a bounce-back year for high-impact oil and gas drilling after a lackluster 2023, with Africa and Latin America likely to spearhead activities. Rystad Energy has identified 36 potential high-impact wells to be drilled or spud in 2024, the highest annual total since we started tracking the market in 2015. This would be a sizeable jump from the 27 high-impact wells drilled last year, and operators will hope for a better success rate.

Of these 36 potentially significant wells, 13 are in Africa and 10 in Latin America, accounting for almost 64% of the global total. Explorers will drill six of these in Asia, two each in the Middle East, Europe and North America and one in Oceania, with TOTALEnergies’ planned exploration in Papua New Guinea.

Only eight of the 27 high-impact wells drilled in 2023 resulted in commercially movable volumes, a success rate of less than 30%, well below the annual average of 42%. These wells discovered volumes of 1Billion barrels of oil equivalent (BOE), a sharp decline from the 3.5Billion BOE found in 2022. These high-impact wells accounted for 20% of the 5Billion BOE discovered by all exploration activities globally last year. To make matters worse, 2023 was an expensive year, with drilling costs rising due to a significantly tighter rig market than in prior years, worsening the blow of a low success rate.

Rystad Energy classifies high-impact wells through a combination of factors, including the size of the prospect, whether they would unlock new hydrocarbon resources in frontier areas or emerging basins and their significance to an operator’s strategy.

“Despite disappointing results in 2023, the exploration industry remains confident that fortunes can turn around this year. Drillers are still investing in frontier, emerging and play-opening areas to find volumes, but they are more targeted in their exploration strategies. Companies are deprioritizing any short-term pay-off in favor of multi-year plans and focusing on wells that best fit their long-term vision. This is a fundamental shift in the market and is unlikely to change even if 2024 success remains muted,” says Taiyab Zain Shariff, vice president of upstream research at Rystad Energy.

Learn more with Rystad Energy’s Upstream Solution.

Of the high-impact wells planned this year, 14 will be drilled in frontier and emerging basins, with three opening up new plays entirely. So, despite a disappointing 2023, many operators continue exploring new plays and focusing on frontier regions. Eight planned high-impact wells target prospective offshore resources of more than 430 million BOE and considerable prospective onshore resources of more than 230 million BOE. The remaining 11 wells are strategically relevant for their respective operators, meaning exploration success would help them gain traction in the region or inform future operational decisions. If all planned wells proceed as scheduled, 2024 would see the highest number of high-impact wells drilled in at least 10 years, since we started tracking these wells in 2015.

The oil and gas majors – BP, Chevron, Eni, ExxonMobil, Shell and TOTALEnergies – typically dominate high-impact well drilling, which will continue in 2024. About 16 (44%) of the total wells planned will be drilled by these companies, with TOTALEnergies planning five, Shell three, and Chevron, Eni and ExxonMobil targeting two each. Most drilling will be undertaken in the Atlantic margin and Asian waters. National oil companies (NOCs) and internationally focused NOCs (INOCs) will account for eight (22%) of this year’s planned wells, with upstream operators responsible for 17% and smaller operators for the remainder.

Around 70% of African wells will be drilled in frontier and emerging basins or will open new plays. Important frontier wells include in the Red Sea offshore Egypt, in the Angoche Basin offshore Mozambique and in the Namibe Basin offshore Angola.

High-impact drilling in the Americas will be primarily focused on Latin America and dominated by wells that hold significance for each operator’s long-term goals rather than frontier basins. Only two of the 12 wells planned in the Americas are in North America, with one each in the US and Canada. In Latin America, a frontier well planned for offshore Argentina would be the first drilled well in the Argentine Basin. ExxonMobil also plans to drill a frontier well in the Orphan Basin offshore Canada.

A total of six high-impact wells are planned in Asia this year, including ultra-deepwater offshore drilling in Indonesia and Malaysia, the opening of India’s Andaman Basin and a potentially resource-rich well offshore China.

Invictus Formally Declares a Natural Gas Discovery in Zimbabwe

By Sully Manope, in Windhoek

Australian minnow, Invictus Energy, has moved from citing “encouraging signs of hydrocarbon”, in its drilling campaign in Zimbabwe, to formally declaring a hydrocarbon discovery.

The company is on the sidetrack to the Mukuyu-2 well, (Mikuyu-2STK), its fourth hole on the Mukuyu prospect, in the Caborra Basa project, onshore Zimbabwe.

“We are delighted to declare a gas discovery from the Mukuyu-2 sidetrack well in the Upper Angwa formation”, Scott Macmillian, Invictus’ Managing Director, declared in a statement. “The discovery represents one of the most significant developments in the onshore Southern Africa oil and gas industry for decades”.

Invictus explains that the decision to call a discovery was made after an intermediate wireline logging was run with the primary objective of obtaining hydrocarbon samples from Upper Angwa reservoirs located close to the base of the Upper Angwa formation following indications from real-time logging while drilling and mudgas.

“A limited suite of wireline logging data was acquired over the interval from 1,969metre Measured Depth (MD) to 2,975mMD in the Basal Pebbly Arkose and Upper Angwa formations, which identified multiple hydrocarbon bearing reservoirs in the Upper Angwa. A total of four hydrocarbon samples were recovered to surface from two separate zones in the Upper Angwa, using the wireline formation testing tool. A further two formation water samples were recovered from the Basal Pebbly Arkose formation”.

Wireline log interpretation calculates a preliminary net pay estimate of 13.9metres for the Upper Angwa, “however, this estimate is still subject to further calibration of the logs with core and fluid data to determine appropriate net cutoffs and subsequent pay estimates”, Invictus explains. “Significant additional gross sands were intersected within the Upper Angwa gas leg but are below the current net reservoir cutoff. These intervals may have better reservoir development elsewhere in the Mukuyu field and along with the refinement to the net pay criteria represents additional upside. Further appraisal and technical evaluation of log, core, seismic and well test data is required to determine the full extent of the resource size.

Prior to the Mukuyu-2 Sidetrack, Invictus had earlier drilled Mukuyu-1, Mukuyu 1 Sidetrack as well as Mukuyu 2. In all cases it filled the media with upbeat reports of “elevated mud gas and fluorescence were encountered and strong gas shows”.

Now “the Mukuyu-2 discovery, seven kilometres away and 450 metres updip of the Mukuyu-1 well, which can subsequently be classified as a discovery, provides confirmation of the large potential of the Mukuyu field which has a structural closure of over 200km2 “, Macmillian says. “With additional hydrocarbon bearing reservoirs ahead, the focus now is to complete the drilling and evaluation program and obtain further wireline data including fluid samples to declare an additional discovery from the Lower Angwa formation.”

Gas and fluid properties from the recovered samples will be confirmed following laboratory testing once the sample bottles are dispatched from the rig for analysis. No additional fluid samples were captured in order to preserve the wireline formation sampling tool and remaining sample chambers for use in the interpreted Lower Angwa hydrocarbon-bearing zones where thicker sandstone units were penetrated in Mukuyu-2.

The Exalo Rig 202 is drilling ahead “towards the total depth at approximately 3,400mMD sidetrack section  through the remaining Upper and Lower Angwa reservoirs where multiple hydrocarbon bearing zones were intersected in Mukuyu-2.”, Invictus notes in that report.


BW Energy Announces ‘New Oil’ in Gabon’s Hibiscus South

The Norwegian explorer, BW Energy has announced that the DHBSM-1 appraisal well has encountered commercial volumes of oil in the Hibiscus South satellite prospect. The company plans to return to the well to complete it as a production well in early 2024.

The DHBSM-1 well was drilled from the MaBoMo production platform to a total depth of 6,002 metres. The target area is located approximately five kilometres southwest of the MaBoMo and was drilled by the Borr Norve jack-up rig.

“Evaluation of logging data, sample examination and formation pressure measurements confirm approximately 20 metres of pay in an overall hydrocarbon column of 26.5 metres in the Gamba formation”, BW Energy explains in a statement.

“The well data confirms that the Hibiscus South structure is a separate accumulation with a deeper oil-water contact than the nearby Hibiscus Field.  This will enable the Company to book additional reserves not currently included in its annual statement of reserves and provide the opportunity to drill one or more additional production wells from the MaBoMo facility.

Preliminary evaluation indicates gross recoverable reserves of 6 to 7Million barrels of oil and approximately 16 million barrels of oil in place, in line with the mid-case pre-drill expectations reported prior to the commencement of drilling operations.

Only Five Wells Drilled in Ghana in all of Six Months

By Fred Akanni, in Accra

The drillship Noble Venturer was the only rig active in Ghana for the entire first half of 2023.

It was active on a total of nine wells on one field: the Jubilee field, in the country’s western offshore.

Out of the nine probes, Noble Venturer was drilling in five and completing in four wells during those six months.

The rig drilled J62-WI, a Water Injector, J64-P, an Oil Producer, J65-WI Water Injector, J64-P, an Oil Producer and J66-P Oil Producer. In the same period, it completed J61-P, an Oil Producer, J64-P Oil Producer. J65-WI, a Water Injector and J63-P Oil Producer.

There was no rigsite activity by any other company, including ENI, the only major oil firm operating in the country.

Norwegian junior, Aker Energy, which has reached a development stage on Deepwater Tano/Cape Three Points (DWT/CTP, had only received approval ,as of May 2023, for the new Field Development Plan.

Most E&P firms operating in Ghana are third tier independents with little risk appetite and dismal execution capacity. One company no longer has Ghana included on its presentation profile, but the authorities keep publishing claims that it has a work programme it is executing.

Angolan Rig Count Declines; the Country Moderates Output Ambition

Angolan rig activity fell slightly in September 2023, with, twelve (12) drilling units in operation, compared with 14 rigs active in August 2023.

The country’s crude oil output also continued on a downward slope for the third consecutive month in September 2023. The output was 1,112,685 barrels of oil (BOPD), compared with August 2023’s daily average of 1,128,878BOPD.

It was a mere 1.4% output drop, but Angola has declared it was pausing the ambition to reach 1.2MMBOPD, at least until sometime in 2024. Belarmino Chitangueleca, executive director at the National Agency of Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels (ANPG), reportedly told Reuters on October 18, 2023, that Angola expects to maintain its current crude oil production of 1.1MMBOPD into 2024. That’s a revision of the statement made in June 2023 by Ana Miala, the ANPG’s director of production, that the country wants “to reach, and stay around, a production of .1.2MMBOPD, in the medium term”.

At the drill sites, seven (7) drill ships, (Sonandril West Gemini, Sonangol Libongos, Valaris DS-09, Sonangol Quenguela, Transocean Skyros, Valaris DS 12 and Sapem 12000 one (1) Tension Leg Platform TLP-A, and SKD Jaya Tender were working in the deepwater, with one (1) Jack Up, Shelf Drilling’s  Tenaciou active in shallow water. There were two land drilling rigs: a FALCON HP-1000 and SA_02 land rigs.

These units carried out work in twenty-six (26) wells, compared with 27 wells in August 2023.


Chinese Sloppiness Fingered for Fatality as Uganda Halts Operations at an Oil Field

The Petroleum Authority Uganda (PAU) has ordered immediate halt to all operations at the Kingfisher oilfield development in the country, citing safety concerns in which the Authority emphasized it underscores the importance of ensuring the safety of oilfield workers and minimizing risks in the oil and gas sector.

The order follows a fatal accident in the area that occurred on October 6, 2023, which resulted in the death of one of the sub-contractor’s staff members.

A motor accident claimed the life of a security guard at the gate of one of the camps of the CNOOC Uganda Ltd (CUL), in Buhuka, Kyangwali sub county in Kikube District.

PAU’s executive director, Ernest Rubondo, stated that the accident was deemed unacceptable, especially considering previous incidents that the agency had brought to the attention of (CUL), the operator of the field.

Kingfisher project

In accordance with Section 177 of the Petroleum (Exploration, Development and Production) Act, 2013, the PAU directed CUL to halt all Kingfisher field development operations from 00.00 hours on Saturday, October 7, 2023, until further notice.

The PAU  also convened a meeting of top executives from joint venture partners, which include CNOOC, TotalEnergies, and Uganda National Oil Company, to review the situation and provide guidance regarding the ongoing oilfield developments.

The Kingfisher project operated by CNOOC, is one of Uganda’s oilfields undergoing intensified drilling works with the aim of being ready for oil production by 2025. The project includes the development of a central processing facility (CPF), 31 wells (including 20 producers and 11 injectors), over four well pads and 19kilometres of flowlines adjoining the CPF. The first well was spudded in January 2023.

The field development also includes the development of a lake water abstraction station and other infrastructure such as temporary and permanent camps, a materials yard and access roads.

The production from the field is expected to be 40,000 barrels per day, which will start to decline after five years.

TOTALEnergies-operated Tilenga project is projected to produce 190,000 barrels per day at peak production.

Second Well Commences in Zimbabwe’s Frontier Probe

The Australian junior, Invictus Energy, has reported the spud of Mukuyu-2 well at its 80% owned and operated Cabora Bassa Project in Zimbabwe.

The company says it is on track to complete drilling and evaluation within estimated 50-60 days. In that period it is expected to have drilled to a planned total depth of 3,750 metres and conducted petrophysical evaluation of the well

Since the last update, the Exalo Rig 202 has drilled the 17 ½” surface hole section down to a depth of approximately 496m Measured Depth (“MD”).

Rig 202 will continue to drill ahead in the 12 ¼” inch intermediate hole section through the Dande and Forest targets to a planned total section depth of approximately 2,040metre Measured Depth (MD) within the Pebbly Arkose formation before running a wireline logging evaluation suite and then setting the 9 ⅝” casing.

After setting the 9 ⅝” casing the rig will drill ahead in the 8 ½” hole section through the reminder of the Pebbly Arkose through to the primary targets in the Upper Angwa (Alternations Member) and to the Lower Angwa (Massive Member) to approximately 3,750 metres MD before running a wireline logging evaluation suite.

Mukuyu-2 Well Objectives

Mukuyu-2 will test the primary target interval, the Triassic Upper Angwa formation, sitting approximately 450metres updip from Mukuyu-1 where hydrocarbons were intersected.

The well will also penetrate multiple additional targets including the Dande (JurassicCretaceous), Forest and Pebbly Arkose (both Triassic) formations, as well as the previously untested Lower Angwa sequence within the Mukuyu anticline in the central horst structure. Invictus  will provide regular updates as the drilling campaign progresses.

ENI Scouts for A Rig for Coral North Drilling in Mozambique

Italian explorer ENI is looking to contract a rig to carry out drilling, completion and testing of four wells, in Coral Norte project offshore Mozambique, with start-up scheduled for the third quarter of 2024.

ENI has proposed Coral Norte as the second floating liquified natural Gas (FLNG) project, to drain reserves in Mozambique’s Area 4.

The first project, Coral Sul FLNG, commenced delivery of its first cargo in August 2022.

ENI is designing Coral Norte FLNG, as an exact copy of Coral Sul FLNG; with the same capacity for 3.3Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum, as it has for Coral Norte FLNG.

Building a second platform is considered as an efficient way to maximise the profitability of the gas resources discovered in the Coral structure.

The planned investment in Coral Norte is $7Billion and will still be subject to approval by the Mozambican government.

Coral Norte will be stationed 10 kilometres north of Coral Sul, the first project to take advantage of the large reserves in the deepwater Rovuma Basin.

ENI’s proposal consists of production commencement in the second half of 2027, meaning it could start up before the onshore projects, which depend on the consolidation of security conditions in the face of threats of terrorist attacks in Cabo Delgado.

ENI is looking for drilling rig that must, among other characteristics, have a nominal water depth of 3,000 metres and a minimum drilling depth of 5,500 metres.. The rig must also be able to operate in conditions of strong sea currents with a suitable riser drilling system.



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