Overcoming the technical challenges facing Africa’s Oil and Gas future
It is an exciting time for E&P projects in Africa, but in common with global developments they face a series of challenges that need to be addressed to deliver the anticipated results. The time taken to start production, the danger of cost overruns and the growing spectre of sustainability compliance make it a complex landscape.
A boom time for Africa
The pipeline of new projects on the continent is looking strong. In Côte d’Ivoire, Eni made the deepwater Baleine find in late 2021. Following a successful well in July 2022, which confirmed the eastward extension of the field, Eni is fast-tracking the development and may sanction Phase 1 before the end of 2022. This will be Côte d’Ivoire’s first significant project in decades.
In Namibia, there were two giant discoveries in early-2022 that look like game-changers: Shell’s Graff and TotalEnergies’ Venus adjacent finds located in the deep waters of the Orange Basin. TotalEnergies and Shell are expediting appraisal work, a positive sign – the two companies would not do this if they did not believe they had something material.
In Angola, Eni’s Agogo project signals upstream activity is picking up after a few years in the doldrums – several projects are on the move, including TotalEnergies’ FPSO-based Cameia-Golfinho on Block 21 and a shallow-water gas project operated by Eni. The Italian Major is also progressing with an innovative FAST LNG project in the shallow waters of Congo Brazzaville.
But it’s not just the Majors that are moving ahead with developments. African-focused Independents are also key. They include companies like Perenco, which continues to expand across the region, utilising its brownfield expertise to maximise value from mature basins in Gabon, Congo, Cameroon and elsewhere. VAALCO has ambitious growth plans centred on Gabon and Equatorial Guinea while BW Energy, has been able to demonstrate strong operating capabilities with the Dussafu development in Gabon. The company also has plans to replicate its winning strategy with the Kudu gas project offshore Namibia.
Fast-track developments now industry mantra
Delivering new projects on time and on budget is a big focus now for operators. Production facilities like FPSOs are critical to achieving short-cycle targets. Operators like BW Energy have been successful in redeploying existing infrastructure on developments like Dussafu. Eni also intends to redeploy an existing FPSO as part of its fast-track plans for Baleine. But subsequent phases on Baleine will require much larger FPSOs. According to research from Welligence Energy Analytics, it has taken an average of 50 months from FID to first oil for developments involving new-build hulls on the continent. In the current climate, companies are anxious to shorten those lead times.
“What we have seen in Guyana recently is ExxonMobil using standardised FPSOs,” Obo Idornigie, vice president – Sub Saharan Africa research at Welligence, says. “Instead of these FPSOs being bespoke vessels, they are now standardised and will utilise hulls that have already been built to reduce the time from FID to first production.”
Laser focus on costs
Fast tracking projects is just one part of the story. Another significant challenge now is the increasing pressure on the supply chain as activity ramps up. “During COVID, most service providers slashed their workforces, now the market is ramping up again, demand is outstripping capacity”. This is a concern that everyone in the industry is talking about added Idornigie. As companies progress greenfield and brownfield projects, can the construction of new wells, delivery of new facilities and other upstream supply chain related activities be achieved without cost pressures?
Facing carbon reduction challenges
Sustainability has been a buzzword around the oil and gas industry for some time. However, when we look at this in the context of African oil and gas, it often revolves around reducing carbon emissions during production, primarily gas flaring and venting from operations. “The big challenge for a number of Africa-focused independents is reducing carbon emissions from mature developments. Are there opportunities for independents to work with technology providers to deliver value from brownfields and at the same time reducing emissions?”, Idornigie adds.
“At the same time, there is pressure to ramp up gas production for domestic consumption. With the GOR (Gas Oil Ratio) increasing at mature oil fields, how do you repurpose gas that is flared into gas that could provide electricity for host communities? That is where that social licence to operate starts to become an issue.”
Learn more at Africa Oil Week
A day-long technical stream at Africa Oil Week will focus on how to overcome the three challenges facing Africa’s oil and gas sector. Companies such as Halliburton, Baker Hughes, Schlumberger, BW Energy and Perenco will join Welligence Energy Analytics to share their experiences and discuss the path to a cost-effective, timely and sustainable future. “The technical stream at AOW will investigate how the industry can leverage technology to manage what we call the three Cs – Cost, Cycle time and Carbon reduction,” Idornigie concludes. “How can African projects be delivered efficiently, with low costs, shorter lead times, and sustainably?”