CERAWeek: Potential grows in Africa

Current oil prices does little to support exploration and expanding developments. However, keeping an eye on the future, sub-saharan African nations show promise.

Western African countries, such as Nigeria, have already seen the benefits from capitalizing on their hydrocarbon resources and can be an example for emerging African producers. Helping to progress this development, the US Department of Energy (DOE) has focused on emerging producers, according to Christopher Smith, Assistant Secretary for Fossil Energy, DOE, at IHS CERAWeek in Houston on Tuesday (22 February).

“We see a tremendous drive to create a regulatory environment that is conducive to attracting investment, and trying to deal with issues around transparency and rule of law in a way that ensures that the benefits of their hydrocarbon resources gets passed out to the populations that live in those countries,” Smith said.  These countries, particularly in East Africa, the governments are wrestling with creating new rules and regulations while also explaining the benefits to both the local and international communities, he said.

Furthermore, unless there are new plays or exploration concepts, the size of discoveries in mature areas will decline. If companies are looking for giant fields, they must look towards frontier areas, such as offshore Southern Africa.

“If we are really looking for surprises, we have to go to more blank areas such as the Zambezi Delta, South Africa, or the Namibe basin for example, these areas are much less explored and come with greater risk,” said Ding Feng, chief expert and senior geologist, Sinopec. “For the Zambezi Delta, if you look at the cross profile, it looks very similar to the Nile Delta, in North Africa, with a lot of tertiary deposits.”

The Nile Delta has proven to have vast hydrocarbon resources, so with similar structures, deposits, depositional history, and play concepts that can be deployed the Zambezi Delta region stands out. 

“This is an interesting place we want to have an eye on. I won’t be too surprised if there is some kind of major discovery there,” Feng said.

So far, very few wells have been drilled in the Zambezi Delta area, and no discoveries has been made.

Image: (L-R) Daniel Berkove, Ding Feng, Christopher Smith, A.B.C. Orjiako/ OE Staff

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