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Tickers in this Article: APC, CNQ, NBL, MRO, FTI, XOM
Is it possible that West Africa will come to the rescue of the world's hungry energy consumers? Several countries in that area are increasing production of oil and natural gas from fields offshore, helping to offset the declines from more mature areas elsewhere in the world. (For a primer on the oil industry, refer to our Oil and Gas Industry Primer.) Ghana expects production from its Jubilee Field in 2010. The country also has other offshore areas under development. Its difficult to estimate the potential reserves at such an early stage of development, but industry sources estimate Jubilee at 600 million barrels, and possible reserves of ten billion barrels for all of Ghana's offshore resources.

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Anadarko Petroleum (NYSE:APC) is one of the operators with a share of the Jubilee Development. Its average working interest on all its various blocks is 25%. The consortium of operators on Jubilee just ordered $210 million of sub sea equipment from FMC Technologies (NYSE:FTI) to build the offshore infrastructure needed to develop its properties.

Canadian Natural Resources Limited (NYSE:CNQ) is best known for its oil sands operations, but it is also active in Cote D'Ivoire, or the Ivory Coast, as it is known in English. The company's first field was East Espoir, and then development spread to other areas nearby, including West Espoir and Baobab. While these areas are not yet significant in the context of world production, the offshore fields lie continuous to those belonging to Ghana.

Equatorial Guinea is another important country in Africa for oil production. The country has increased its oil exports from 82,000 barrels per day in 1998, to an estimated 358,000 in 2008.

Exxon Mobil (NYSE:XOM) has major acreage here, with 200,000 net acres in blocks offshore. The company produced 185,000 gross barrels per day from the Zafiro field.

A smaller independent exploration and production company active in offshore Equatorial Guinea is Noble Energy (NYSE:NBL). Noble Energy has a 40% interest in Block I and a 45% in Block O, but is currently concentrating its resources on the Alba Field to the North of these blocks. Marathon Oil (NYSE:MRO) has a 63% working interest in this field.

Noble has 1.8 million acres of mostly unexplored acreage on Blocks I and O, and on some properties in nearby Cameroon. The company has drilled 11 successful wells out of 12 attempts here.

The Bottom Line

Several West African countries hold substantial offshore reserves of oil and natural gas, and may be the key to producing enough energy to meet the needs of both the industrialized and emerging countries. (Learn about factors that affect oil prices in our article, What Determines Oil Prices?)

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