exploration

Namibia has until recently been largely overlooked by the oil majors. A spate of farm-in agreements over the last six months suggests that this is changing. International oil companies are keen to secure a stake in the southern African country’s oil boom, should one materialise.

Austria’s OMV and Murphy Oil Corporation from Arkansas are the latest companies to make their first foray into the Namibian oil and gas sector, buying 25 and 40 per cent, respectively, of Cowan Petroleum’s licence to explore two blocks off the Namibian coast. 

Gold mining companies are fast-reducing their drilling activities in Africa, pushing down the exploration levels on the resource-rich continent to a 17 month low.

It’s bad news for many Africa countries – gold mining makes a big contribution to GDP and foreign currency earnings. 

South Africa’s Sasol, the world’s biggest producer of motor fuels from coal, is pulling out of its five year natural gas exploration project in Papua New Guinea. The southeast Asian country’s potential reserves have attracted other big oil companies but Sasol’s experience has been more like trying to get blood from a stone than tapping gas from a brimming reserve. 

Italian oil giant Eni SpA has confirmed a discovery of around 450m barrels at its Sankofa East field 50km off the coast of Ghana, boosting the west African nation’s overall oil reserves.

About 150m barrels of Eni’s find will be immediately recoverable, according to the company, which says the result “confirms the commercial standing” of its Ghanaian prospects. Plans for exploitation of the reserves are now underway. It’s small beans (relatively) for a company of Eni’s size, but big news for the budding Ghanaian oil industry. 

When it comes to oil and gas exploration, you win some and you lose some. All the more so when you’re blazing a trail in under-explored destinations like Uganda, Kenya and Ghana.

Shares for the oil explorer Tullow dropped sharply by over 5 per cent per cent as of 1pm in London on Friday to reach 1,159p, as the company released a statement containing details of nearly $300m of expected writedowns from explorations in Guyana, Ghana and Suriname – more than double its $120m of writedowns for 2011. 

Independent and small-scale oil companies like to be quick on their feet, beating the energy giants time and again in the exploration race. But in some of Africa’s more promising energy areas, regulatory hurdles and resource nationalism are starting to hold things up. 

Abu Dhabi plans to draw up a final shortlist for its giant offshore oil concession as early as next month, moving a step forward in a process that is being closely watched as a sign of the balance of geopolitical power in the Gulf, writes Camilla Hall.

At stake is a giant 75-year concession that has historically been the preserve of leading western oil companies, but may now be opened to new entrants from emerging economies in Asia and elsewhere.

 

When Sierra Leone’s Petroleum Resources Unit (PRU) named provisional winners of eight offshore oil blocks last month, it teamed various bidders together for four of the blocks, telling them to move forward as partners in negotiations. The companies had no say in the matter.

“It is like a forced marriage,” said Adekunle King, legal officer for the PRU. 

A 50-year-old border dispute has reignited between Malawi and Tanzania over ownership of Lake Malawi, Africa’s third largest lake. The reason? Oil and gas.

Malawi’s late president, Bingu wa Mutharika, awarded an exploration contract to UK company Surestream Petroleum during mounting tension over entitlement to the lake last October. Surestream was one of seven companies to bid for hydrocarbon exploration licenses in the Lake Malawi basin. 

Four mostly Philippine groups, including one which counts a British company as member, submitted bids on Tuesday to look for oil and gas in three energy exploration blocks covering 1.6m ha of waters west of the Philippines in the South China Sea.

The move could potentially add to Manila’s rising tense relations with China which is claiming ownership of most of the body of water.