In terms of institutional framework, Senegal has been by far the most active country in the basin. 2018 saw the inauguration of the National Institute of Petroleum, which aims to fuel the sector’s need for high-skilled professionals in Senegal and regionally.
It is the destination of the majority of foreign direct investment in the hydrocarbon sector. The country has had two major oil discoveries, in the SNE oil field offshore, discovered by Cairn Energy and the Grand Tortue/Ahmeyim (GTA) gas complex, discovered by Kosmos Energy.
The SNE oil field is under its first phase of development by the joint-venture composed of Cairn Energy, Woodside Energy, Far Ltd and Petrosen. Woodside officially obtained operatorship of the project in November 2018. A final investment decision is to be awaited mid-2019.
Situated on the offshore border of Senegal and Mauritania, the GTA field is owned by the joint-venture BP/Kosmos with Petrosen on the Senegal side and the Société Mauritanienne d’Hydrocarbures et du Patrimoine Minier (SMHPM) on the Mauritanian side
Aside from more potential discoveries, we can expect four major pieces of news coming from Senegal in 2019 including final investment decisions on both fields, the new petroleum code including long-awaited local content policies and the presidential elections to take place in February.
Aside from the GTA complex of which four out of six blocks are situated in Mauritanian waters, Mauritania triggered major interest in its offshore potential. 2018 was a big year for exploration as two supermajors joined the game; ExxonMobil and Shell.
ExxonMobil announced the launch of its largest ever 3D seismic data acquisition program to take place offshore. Shell acquired two explorations blocks in July this year. Added to that, Total reinforced its footprint with two new block licenses signed during the biennial oil and gas conference, Mauritanides.
During the year, President Macky Sall of Senegal and President Ould Abdel Aziz of Mauritania took the opportunity to warm their relations and sign mutual cooperation agreements. Like Senegal, Mauritania will be undergoing presidential elections in April-May 2019.
Despite exciting news of a major discovery of oil offshore The Gambia in May 2018, such information has not been officially confirmed by the owner of the blocks in question, Far Ltd. Nevertheless, the Australian company sees immense potential in the zone which will be confirmed upon first drilling results of the wells neighboring Senegal’s SNE field.
In the early 1990s, Senegal and Guinea-Bissau reached a cooperation agreement on a prospective zone called the Agence de Coopération et de Gestion entre le Sénégal et la Guinea-Bissau. In 2018, Guinea-Bissau requested a revision of the terms so it would adapt better to both parties in light of recent discoveries in the basin; as well as attract international investment for exploration.
Guinea-Conakry has historically concentrated its efforts in developing its highly resourceful mining sector. Nevertheless, a standalone Ministry of Petroleum was implemented in May 2018, driven by Minister Zakaria Koulibaly and the country doubled its allocated budget to hydrocarbons for 2019. We can expect increased interest from international explorers as the institutional framework strengthens in Conakry.