Africa Exploration, One Play at a Time

This continent’s oil and gas frontiers have produced some of the world’s most exciting discoveries in recent years. Africa Oil & Power’s Play by Play series takes a look at the emerging hotspots, their resource potential, and their future prospects.

Horizons for explorers in Africa are widening fast. Just a few years ago, most would concede that outside of the mature offshore areas in the Gulf of Guinea, Angola’s prolific deepwater sector and the abundant Niger Delta, there was little to provoke serious excitement. Several discoveries have turned this idea on its head.

E&P companies operating on the margins of the Gulf of Guinea – Cairn Energy in Senegal, for example, which made the landmark SNE-1 find in 2014 – have exposed the potential of the former African fringes. Tullow Oil’s Jubilee discovery and development in 2010 may have started the new race to the edges, but expectations are now raised for offshore sectors all the way from Mauritania to Namibia.

On the other side of the continent, the Rovuma Basin gas discoveries offshore Tanzania and Mozambique have altered conventional perceptions of East Africa’s prospectivity. In the two years to 2014, 24 of 27 offshore wells showed discoveries. These globally significant gas deposits will be transformative for the two nations, and breed hope that explorers may strike it big further north in the waters of Somalia and Kenya.

Activity in the Rift Valley shows that the Niger Delta’s virtual monopoly on African onshore activity is over. Kenya has emerged as one of the world’s exploration hotspots since the discovery of oil in 2012, while Uganda sits atop an estimated 6.5 billion barrels of oil reserves – potentially one of the largest deposits onshore in sub-Saharan Africa. Both countries are now developing the infrastructure to export their oil.

In the mature producers of West and Central Africa, oil and gas companies have broadened their search for hydrocarbons and made a number of important finds. The geology in this area has mirrored the characteristics of Brazil’s bountiful pre-salt formations, resulting in significant discoveries in Congo-Brazzaville, Gabon and Angola.

The opening of so many new oil and gas basins over the last decade has turned petroleum investors’ eyes toward Africa. With expectations high that, as long as exploration drilling continues, Africa’s trend towards opening new petroleum frontiers will continue, Africa Oil & Power begins a new series of articles examining the most exciting plays on the continent. Starting this week, we open with a study of the Karoo Basin and a look at how South Africa is developing the world’s eighth largest shale gas reserves.