Tracking Africa’s Upstream Developments in 2023

Stepping into 2024, Africa is emerging as a strong contender in the global petroleum market. Boasting crude oil reserves of approximately 125 billion barrels and natural gas reserves of roughly 620 trillion cubic feet (tcf), Africa’s oil and gas industry holds ambitious plans to deliver economic diversification, job creation and energy security through the development and monetization of these resources.

Following a slate of massive discoveries in the offshore Orange Basin in 2022 – including the Venus-1X, Graff-1X and La Rona-1X discoveries – 2023 has been another banner year for Namibia. Last March, a consortium led by supermajor Shell successfully drilled the Jonker-1X exploration project. Two months later, the successful spudding of the Lesedi-1X exploration well by Shell also verified the presence of hydrocarbons.

TotalEnergies is currently engaged in a multi-well appraisal and exploration drilling program in Block 2913B in Petroleum Exploration License (PEL) 56 in Namibia’s Orange Basin. Oil and gas exploration company, ReconAfrica, announced last June an updated prospective resource estimate of 22.5 tcf of natural gas in Namibia’s onshore PEL 73 in the Kavango Basin, while receiving approval from the Ministry of Mines and Energy for a second renewal exploration period for the license, which will run from January 2024 to January 2026. As a result of these major discoveries, Namibia’s government has sought to engage multinational firms to compete for multi-billion-dollar projects in the country.

Extending to South Africa, TotalEnergies has been granted authorization to explore the country’s offshore Orange Basin. Last October, South Africa’s Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment gave the supermajor the go-ahead to drill for oil and gas in Block 5/6/7 off the Cape coast.

In Gabon, a significant oil discovery in the Hibiscus South exploration prospect was announced by oil and gas company, BW Energy, last November. Located in the Dussafu Marin license offshore Gabon, the field is estimated to contain recoverable resources of six to seven million barrels, with approximately 16 million barrels of oil in place. BW Energy plans to complete the well as a production well in early-2024. To the north in neighboring Equatorial Guinea, Trident Energy started its second drilling program in the West African country last November, following the arrival of a semi-submersible drilling rig in Luba.

After years of inactivity, Algeria’s national oil company Sonatrach announced the resumption of oil exploration in Libya last November. Libya’s National Oil Corporation formalized the process of reestablishing Sonatrach’s contractual commitments in Blocks 065 and 96/95 in the Ghadames Basin. In Egypt, the government approved three oil and gas contracts to the tune of $319 million, greenlighting an exploration and production program that will see up to 13 wells drilled in the Mediterranean Sea and Gulf of Suez. The agreements were signed between the Egyptian General Petroleum Company and U.S. supermajor ExxonMobil.

Poised to increase Nigeria’s crude oil production to a targeted three million barrels per day, the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation announced last March a positive outcome from its Ebenyi-A exploration well, increasing estimated hydrocarbon reserves from 37 billion barrels to 50 billion barrels in the license. Last November, TotalEnergies spudded the first of three wells on the Akpo West field, which will be tied into the Akpo FPSO, with production from the short-cycle project expected by the close of 2023. This follows a nine-well drilling campaign led by the French multinational earlier this year also in Oil Mining License 130, containing the Akpo and Egina fields. 

In Uganda, TotalEnergies and its partners announced the drilling of 31 oil wells in the Kingfisher Field Development Area, as the country seeks to produce first oil in 2024. The field is anticipated to produce 40,000 barrels of crude oil per day and 20,000 metric tons of gas per year to meet growing energy demand in the East African country, as well as for export to regional and international markets. Last October, Eni announced a search for a rig to carry out drilling and well testing operations in the Coral Norte project offshore Mozambique. The project is situated in Area 4 of the Rovuma Basin, with four wells drilled in the third quarter of 2023 and first production earmarked for the second half of 2027.