[Column] Sergio Pugliese: Angola’s deepwater prospects lay foundation for oil production increase
Since the start-up of the Kuito Field by supermajor, Chevron in water depths of approximately 400 meters, the Republic of Angola has developed into one of southern Africa’s leading regional deepwater players. Hydrocarbon reserves found in water depths ranging from 300 meters to 1,200 meters far surpass those located on the country’s continental shelf. In fact, Angola’s oil production, which registered at 1.13 million barrels per day (bpd) as of March 2022, is derived almost entirely from the offshore fields of Cabinda together with the deepwater fields of the Lower Congo Basin.
As Angola’s Ministry of Mineral Resources, Petroleum and Gas spearhead efforts to reverse declining production levels, Angola’s deep and ultra-deep offshore assets will be at the forefront of drilling campaigns, aimed at meeting phased production targets, over the next decade.
One of Angola’s most promising deepwater prospects is TotalEnergies’ Cameia-Golfinho deepwater development in Block 20/11 and Block 21/09 respectively– estimated to hold 420 million barrels of oil equivalent. The Golfinho field is one of seven deepwater discoveries made in Block 20/11 and neighboring Block 21/09, of which TotalEnergies assumed operatorship in 2019. The French oil major also completed drilling works of an appraisal well that supported previous predictions of significant reservoirs located beneath the salt layer, just last August. TotalEnergies has since issued a tender for a new 100,000-bpd Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) facility to service the Golfinho field, with FID expected for 2023 and startup scheduled for 2027.
Meanwhile, Eni’s ultra-deepwater Agogo full field development (FFD) is also underway in Block 15/06, for which the operator is seeking an FPSO vessel to restart exploration drilling and revive block output. The Italian multinational led a series of discoveries in Block 15/06 in 2019 and coupled with both fast-tracked and phased development together with innovative deep-sea technologies, was able to bring the Agogo oilfield online in as few as nine months, after its discovery. Earlier this year, Eni also announced a major upgrade of the resource base in the Ndungu field located in the West Hub of Block 15/06, raising estimates to 800-1000 million barrels of oil in place. For its part, the Agogo FFD will contribute up to 42,000 bpd at peak production by 2024 and is estimated to hold 205 million barrels of oil equivalent. FID is set to take place in 2023, with start-up to follow in 2026.
The appeal of Angola’s deepwater assets has also been demonstrated through several recent acquisitions. London-listed, Afentra entered Blocks 3/05 and 23 in April, acquiring a 20% non-operated interest in the former and a 40% non-operated interest in the latter. While Block 3/05 consists of eight mature fields, Block 23 represents a highly prospective deepwater exploration and appraisal opportunity, home to the deepwater Azul-1 exploration well, which was the first pre-salt well in Angolan deepwater. With the acquisition marking Afentra’s strategic entry into Angola, it is no coincidence that the oil and gas firm targeted these mature producing assets and discovered resources to expand its presence within southern Africa.
Furthermore, a consortium comprising Angola’s Somoil and the U.K.’s Sirius Petroleum signed a $335 million deal in May, to enter two deepwater producing blocks in the Congo Basin and one block in the Kwanza Basin. As the first privately held, 100% Angolan capital company to operate in Angola’s oil and gas sector, Somoil is seeking to leverage its strong track record in onshore and shallow-water blocks in the Angolan deepwater, having purchased all shares in Block 14 at the start of this year. Block 14 represents the first deepwater block to come onstream in Angola and contains significant untapped reserves that are set to advance Angola’s domestic oil production levels.