Interview: Etienne Dieudonné Ngoubou
How have lower oil prices impacted exploration?
ETIENNE NGOUBOU: Nine contracts have been signed between the government and international oil companies for the exploration of deep offshore areas. In a bid to pool the exploration activities, the government has also signed a service contract with France’s CGG to conduct geophysical studies of the oil potential in each area where permits were signed. In this context, investors involved in deep offshore will just have to buy the data directly from CGG in order to fulfil their obligations. Every oil company operating in Gabon has developed its own exploration strategy, even though they each need to fulfil their contractual obligations on schedule.
What strategies have been rolled out to offset the current shortage of gas oil in the country?
NGOUBOU: First, it is worth defining the notions of shortage or retention. For us, a shortage is a total absence of raw material processed in the national territory. What Gabon has been experiencing is retention, as processed products were available in tanks but not distributed to the supply points.
To overcome this, the government has decided to liberalise the importation of oil products, which has prompted rapid development of refined oil imports amongst marketers. The activities and capacities of Société Gabonaise de Raffinage also need to be reinforced given the obsolescence of the current infrastructure, which cannot keep pace with the 7% annual growth in domestic demand. As such, the need to build a new refinery has grown in recent years. This modern refinery will be up to national norms and standards, with a capacity of at least 60,000 barrels per day (bpd).
What investments are being made to boost production at Gabon’s mature oil fields?
NGOUBOU: To extend the lifetime of mature oil fields such as Anguille, Rabi Kounga and Gamba, actions geared towards the optimisation of the production and the recovery of deposits have been or will be carried out through new investment programmes.
Total Gabon has been operating the Anguille oil field for 50 years, with production averaging 13,752 bpd in 2015. The company invested nearly $2bn to assess the continuity of the deposit, which has 100m barrels in estimated additional reserves. The works carried out include: drilling of infill wells; upgrading surface facilities; expanding the water treatment capacity from 9000 cu metres per day (cmpd) to 12,500 cmpd; increasing the water injection capacity from 4500 cmpd to 9000 cmpd by installing new pumps; boosting the separating capacity; and replacing some export pumps.
The Rabi Kounga oil field, discovered in 1985 by Shell Gabon, remains the largest oil deposit in Gabon’s oil basin. In 2015 production averaged 15,343 bpd. A $44m investment was made in 2014 to continue the field’s phase III production by developing enhanced oil recovery (EOR) techniques, including drilling infill wells and several projects to upgrade the production site.
The Gamba-Ivinga oil field began operations 50 years ago and averaged 2663 bpd of production in 2015. Shell Gabon implemented a project to revamp the field, called Gamba Rejuvenation, with an estimated budget of $182m for equipment installation and $33m to convert the 12 existing wells into water injection wells. This project could raise the reserves projections to 17m barrels. Additional works to be carried out include: drilling infill producing wells to raise production; drilling water injector wells to maintain the production plateau; increasing the separating capacity of the Gamba oil terminal; and setting up the produced water re-injection project for the injection of 140,000 bpd of water in line with another EOR project that plans to inject fresh water and polymers.
It is worth noting that these oil investments have been made by the operators themselves, as the role of the state is limited to approving the budgets related to the projects and following up on their implementation.
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