The Biggest Oil and Gas Discoveries Made in Africa in 2021
By Matthew Goosen
As the lifeblood of industrialized nations, oil and gas are valuable sources of energy that underpin socio-economic development and ensure energy security. Serving as the foundation for the world’s energy and economic development, oil and gas has the potential to eradicate energy poverty while assisting developing nations in their adoption of renewable energy. Africa, positioned as the world’s final frontier for hydrocarbon exploration, has been accelerating its oil and gas exploration activities with significant discoveries made over the past year, marking the beginning of a promising decade for the continent.
OIL AND GAS DISCOVERIES IN Q2
Despite the global impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on fossil fuel development and investment, the beginning of the year saw a light oil discovery made by Eni offshore Angola on the 6th of April in deepwater Block 15/06. Drilled at 500m in the Cuica exploration prospect within the Cabaҫa Development Area, the discovery holds a potential 200 to 250 million barrels of oil and marks the second significant oil discovery in the area, reaffirming the west-African country’s position as the second largest oil-producing country in sub-Saharan Africa.
Shocking the oil and gas industry following the publication of preliminary results from exploration wells in Namibia’s 6.3-million-acre Kavango Basin, Canadian oil and gas exploration company, Reconnaissance Africa (ReconAfrica), uncovered the potential of a massive oil discovery estimated to contain 120 billion barrels of oil. Sample log results have since provided over 200m of light oil and natural gas indicators, with the well having reached its full depth of 12,500ft in early-July, and the processing and comprehensive interpretation of seismic data expected by early-December.
In May, South African Minister of Mineral Resources and Energy, Hon. Gwede Mantashe, announced the discovery of pockets of shale gas in the country’s Karoo Basin in the Free State, with estimates suggesting that South Africa holds a potential 390 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas. These gas finds have the potential to drive the southern-African country’s economy while diversifying its energy mix and facilitating an energy transition.
REPOSITIONING WEST AFRICA IN Q3
Further positioning Ghana as a hydrocarbon hub, an offshore oil discovery made by multinational oil and gas company Eni in CTP Block 4 in July revealed that the Eban-1X well and its surrounding complex holds between 500 and 700 million barrels of oil equivalent. Drilled approximately 50km off the west-African country’s coast, and roughly 8km northwest of the Sankofa Hub, the well was drilled at a water depth of 545m, reaching a total depth of 4,179m, with production testing data suggesting the potential to deliver 5,000 bpd.
Drilling at the Hibiscus North exploration well in Gabon’s Dassafu Block by oil and gas company, BW Energy, in August, encountered a prospect expected to significantly increase the block’s recoverable reserves of 105 million barrels. At a total depth of 336m and encountering approximately 13.5m of oil-bearing reservoir, preliminary results released in September have indicated lower volumes of hydrocarbons than previously expected. However, the prospect still holds the potential of billions of barrels of oil.
Meanwhile, Eni announced on 1 September, a major oil discovery off the coast of Cote d’Ivoire with reserves estimated at between 1.5 and 2 billion barrels of oil and approximately 1.8 to 2.4 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. With first oil and gas expected by as early as 2023, Eni announced in November plans to fast-track development and operations of the Baleine-1X well, located in Block C1-101, which will drastically enhance the country’s domestic capacity, thus reducing imports.
AFRICA AS THE FINAL FRONTIER IN OIL AND GAS EXPLORATION IN Q4
In October, Eni once again made three oil and gas discoveries, this time, in Egypt’s western desert region – holding a potential 50 million barrels of oil equivalent in reserves. Located in the Meleiha and Southwest Meleiha concessions, the discoveries include oil, gas, and condensate reserves, with initial well-testing indicating a stable oil production capacity of up to 2,500 bpd.
In the same month, Australian gas and oil exploration company, Invictus Energy, appointed Polaris Natural Resources, a Canadian firm, to conduct a seismic survey of the Cabora Bassa Basin, located in the Zambesi Valley in the Muzarabani District, 300km northeast of Harare, Zimbabwe – which is believed to be one of the most under-explored interior regions on the African continent. Invictus Energy and the Government of Zimbabwe earlier this year signed a petroleum exploration development and production agreement, with the company being granted production rights within the country for the next 25 years.
In South Africa, the country’s integrated energy and chemical company, Sasol, signed an MoU with the Central Energy Fund in October to accelerate the development of natural gas across the country. With a preliminary focus on long-term energy security and a reduction of imports, the agreement is expected to boost natural gas development and drive economic growth. The outlook of natural gas continued into November for South Africa, with renewable energy company, Renergen, reporting promising results following drilling operations at the country’s sole onshore petroleum plant, its Virginia Gas Project, reportedly discovering significant natural gas deposits. Reporting a 600% increase in methane and helium reserves, contents of the well are estimated to contain an estimated 7.2 billion cubic feet (bcf) of helium, and 215.1 bcf of methane.
With the potential to realize The Gambia’s first oil production, Australian oil and gas firm, FAR, has initiated drilling at its offshore Bambo-1 exploration well in Block A-2, which contains a prospective resource of 1,118 million barrels of oil. The drilling campaign is expected to last approximately 30 days, with the Stena IceMax drillship having arrived on site on 12 November.