In Africa, as the count of offshore oil and gas blocks that are getting depleted continues to rise, some producing countries are opting to invest in seismic data to enable identification and demarcation of new blocks while at the same deploying more high end technology, though expensive, in extracting the hydrocarbons from the maturing shallow and deepwater assets.
With the help of seasoned data collectors, several African countries are obtaining a more accurate picture of their offshore subsurface structure, which they in turn are using to woo more oil and gas explorers and producers, as is happening in the Republic of Congo (Brazzaville).
Even as 2019 comes to a close, the country’s national oil company Societe Nationale des Petroles du Congo (SNPC) in partnership with global marine geophysical company, Petroleum Geo-Services (PGS), have completed a major project involving the reprocessing of large volume of seismic data within the offshore area of the Congo coastal basin that is essential in the success of the country’s latest block licensing round.
SNPC and PGS say the project has enabled the production of a single merged dataset, Congo MegaSurveyPlus, through the use of a modern reprocessing flow that has resulted in significant upgrading of previous regional coverage at a time when the country is proceeding with second licensing bid for nearly 18 offshore and onshore blocks.
“The imaging results are striking and have revitalized the entire basin area with an improved and consistent regional geological perspective,” said PGS early this week.
According to PGS, which recently predicted an increase in offshore and onshore exploration and production spending, the reprocessed 3D dataset for Congo “is tied to wells, to allow a regional interpretation and identification of prospects, plays and migration paths, reducing the technical risks of Congo Shelf exploration.”
PGS said the Congo MegaSurveyPlus “comprises 12 original 3D surveys, all reprocessed from field data using the latest broadband processing techniques, to deliver PSDM and prestack volumes and clearer images.”
“Increased bandwidth and signal fidelity ensure better velocity models and final images that are more reliable,” it added.
For Congo, the MegaSurveyPlus is critical in the ongoing drive to attract increased investment in its offshore and onshore blocks.
Last year the Ministry of Hydrocarbons unveiled the Congo License Round Phase II 2018/2019 that involves five blocks in the shallow offshore, five blocks in the deep and ultra-deep offshore. The bidding also entails three onshore blocks in the Coastal Basin and five onshore blocks in the Cuvette Basin.
Although the licensing round was launched at a time when the global economic situation was still volatile with many oil and gas explorers and producers rethinking their upstream investment strategies, Congo is optimistic its current momentum to develop the mining sector “to ensure the renewal of our reserves of liquid and gaseous hydrocarbons.”
Acquisition of additional data and a successful licensing round provides an opportunity for Congo, with an estimated 1.6 billion barrels of proved crude oil reserves, to address the recent oil production declines and which the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) says would continue in the short term “despite the addition of new fields over the past few years.”
“The decline is attributed to maturing fields and a slowdown in field development,” says EIA.
Meanwhile, going into 2020 Congo SNPC and PGS are planning new acquisitions of MC3D survey on the country’s Shelf area, “to provide extensive new seismic data coverage over this highly prospective and producing area.”
"The new data will enhance pre-salt imaging and improve our knowledge of the postsalt opportunities, unlocking plays and prospects not imaged fully by the existing data," says Christine Roche, NV Manager Africa at PGS.
Congo’s emphasis on more accurate and reliable offshore data to support upstream investments comes at a time when global market for seismic services by players such as PGS is expected to grow.
According to PGS there is an emerging trend of “a continuing recovery of the marine seismic market fundamentals.”
“Contract seismic is the activity currently benefiting the most from the improvement, driven by more 4D acquisition and generally higher demand for new proprietary seismic data,” it said.
And with the new data model provided by SNPC and PGS, there is optimism the country’s second licensing round would, as Minister Tchikaya said previously, “offer interesting opportunities for the international oil and gas industry, permitting them to take strategic positions in areas of the Republic of Congo with a significant proven potential for hydrocarbons.”