West Africa banking on oil jackpot

Petroleum investors are ramping up their hunt for oil thought to be worth hundreds of billions of dollars that they hope is located beneath a deep submerged salt crust offshore West Africa. Consistently high oil prices consistently and cheaper technology has made it possible for producers to explore thousands of feet below the surface. The enthusiasm follows pre-salt finds by Total and Cobalt in Gabon and Angola, shifting focus to a region that has played second fiddle to east Africa’s gas boom.

The investors are seeking to emulate Brazil’s major discoveries across the Atlantic. Geologists have long believed that Africa’s western seabed mirrors South America’s. The continents were fused into a single plate nearly 200 million years ago. William Hayes, senior VP at explorer Kosmos Energy, told Reuters the firm expected a “suite of smaller, but still globally significant discoveries” in the region.

So far, most of the excitement has centered on Angola where prospecting is more advanced after a licensing round in 2011, although in an interview with Reuters earlier this month, Angola’s Oil Minister Jose Botelho de Vasconcelos said it could take operators eight to 10 years after discovery to start production.

Jasper Peijs, BP’s exploration director for sub-Saharan Africa, said he expected super giant discoveries off Angola: “All the prospects there have the potential to be giant, which I would say is at least 250 million barrels and greater, or super giant of 500 million to a billion barrels and even greater than that.”

Some expect the pre-salt zone to extend further north to the Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea or south to Namibia, stretching along a more than 2,000 kilometre coastline. In addition to Angola, at least half a dozen pre-salt wells are either underway or have been announced in neighbouring Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. Brazil has made several pre-salt finds since 2007 in the Santos Basin off its southeastern coast. It also has a host of new wells, such as the massive Libra field.

For the rest of the analysis, see: http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/29/africa-drilling-idUSL5N0JC4D420131129

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