A number of exploration hotspots have emerged across the continent, with major finds made across both on- and offshore basins. The rebound in high-impact drilling success rates have not only demonstrated the sizeable potential of untapped acreage but made a strong case for upstream investment in Africa.
On the back of regional oil and gas discoveries made in 2022 and 2023, a panel discussion held during the 2023 edition of the African Energy Week (AEW) conference – organized by the African Energy Chamber – explored the resource potential of Africa’s new oil and gas hotspots. Speakers from The Gambia, Angola, Namibia, Sierra Leone and more examined the scale and commercial viability of these discoveries, detailing estimated reserves, quality and recoverability.
Emmanuelle Garinet, Vice President for African Exploration, TotalEnergies, kicked off the discussion with a presentation, emphasizing that, “Despite the challenges, we are entering a time of opportunity.” Garinet highlighted the fundamental enablers for Africa’s oil and gas exploration industry.
She explained that, “Having access to good quality data such as 2D and 3D data is fundamental for unlocking new basins. We also need to retain geoscientists. We need to continue hiring and training people. It is key for Africa to continue integrating young students and scientists, they have a role to play. Exploration is a costly and risky business, and companies need incentives and favorable regulatory environments.”
Dubbed the final frontier for oil and gas exploration, Africa continues to turn heads across the global hydrocarbon industry, as new discoveries demonstrate the commercial potential of both on- and offshore basins. In established markets such as Angola, ongoing efforts to stimulate E&P investment amid production decline have shown fruitful results, and exploration remains of crucial importance.
According to Marco Fonnesu, Exploration Manager (Blocks 1/14 & 28), Azule Energy, “Exploration plays a big role not only to create value but to find new assets and areas in which we can achieve larger results,” adding that, “Azule Energy is planning 16 exploration wells over the next four years, most of which are in new exploration blocks.”
Brian Reinsborough, CEO of ReconAfrica, a Canadian company exploring both Namibia and Botswana’s onshore Kavanago Basin, emphasized that, “Africa has tremendous potential.” Reinsborough believes that Government support plays a role in ensuring the success of exploration.
“Important factors include subsurface, contract terms and above-ground contract stability. Governments need to encourage the acquisition of data, both onshore and offshore. This is how basins evolve. Good data acquisition is key to drive innovation by geoscientists,” he stated.
Meanwhile, billion-barrel finds made in emerging markets are poised to bring new producers to the global energy scene. Namibia, for its part, has made a strong play for investment five major discoveries in two years. Justin Cochrane, Director, African Regional Research, S&P Global Commodity Insights, believes that this success can largely be attributed to the country’s attractive fiscal terms.
“We are seeing exploration take place in locations that are attractive for investment. In Namibia, for example, fiscal terms are great and wells are being drilled. South Africa also has great fiscals, and TotalEnergies will likely be drilling next year. As we head up the coast, ExxonMobil were also able to negotiate some good terms in Angola. Where exploration is taking place is tied to where the fiscal terms are good,” he stated.
In line with this trend, untapped markets such as The Gambia and Sierra Leone are eager to replicate regional upstream success, with the introduction of policy reforms and licensing rounds aimed at enticing investment into promising hydrocarbon plays. Sierra Leone has committed to providing an enabling environment for investment, and the results are already showing.
Foday Mansaray, Director General, Petroleum Directorate of Sierra Leone, explained that, “We have concluded our fifth offshore licensing round, successfully. We have three prominent industry players that have pre-qualified. We will conduct negotiations in November and expect to award licenses in December. From application to the issuing of licenses, we have given ourselves 85 days.”
The Gambia is also inviting investors to the market. Cany Jobe, Director E&P of the Gambian National Petroleum Company, stated that, “We have massive resource potential but we face the conundrum of stranded reserves. In 2014, the world’s largest hydrocarbon discovery was in Senegal, the Sangomar field. The Gambia is surrounded by Senegal. By all indications, our basin and shelf plays offer the same potential… You are all welcome to The Gambia, which has great fiscal terms and a proven petroleum system.”
#AEW2023 takes place this week in Cape Town under a mandate to make energy poverty history by 2030. Keep following www.aecweek.com for more exciting information and updates about Africa’s premier energy event.