Gabon to launch 40-block licensing round

Gabon will launch an oil licensing round for more than 40 blocks from two of its deepwater basins in May 2010, according to an official at CGGVeritas.

Nov 6th, 2009

Eric Watkins
OGJ Oil Diplomacy Editor

LOS ANGELES, Nov. 6 -- Gabon will launch an oil licensing round for more than 40 blocks from two of its deepwater basins in May 2010, according to an official at CGGVeritas.

The licensing round, which will close in November 2010, says Steve Toothill, CGGVeritas chief geologist, is a deepwater round, with attention on subsalt plays.

Gabon presents a vast unexplored basin and drilling so far has been only above the salt, according to Toothill, who said his firm has seen some large structures below the salt where there is large potential.

CGGVeritas, which has been hired to advise the government on promotion of the licensing round, purchased 12,000 km of seismic data and reprocessed much existing data. Some companies, all deepwater players, have already signed up to buy data, Toothill said.

Word of the licensing round comes as Gabon’s production has fallen to 250,000 b/d from its peak of 371,000 b/d in 1997—apparently due to maturing fields and a lack of new ones coming online.

Liquids production down
Analyst BMI said, “Following Brazil's recent significant subsalt discoveries and Angola's deepwater discoveries, Gabon will be hoping that its deepwater offshore acreage holds similar potential.”

However, in its most recent Gabon Oil & Gas Report, BMI forecasts that in 2008-18 the country’s oil and gas liquids production will decrease by 3.95%, with volumes peaking at 265,000 b/d in 2010, before falling steadily to 226,000 b/d by the end of the 10-year forecast period.

BMI said Gabon’s oil consumption in 2008-18 is set to increase by 56%, with growth slowing to an assumed 5%/year towards the end of the period and the country using 21,000 b/d by 2018.

Gas production is expected to rise to 1 billion cu m by the end of the forecast period, the analyst said. With demand rising by 900% in 2008-18, BMI said, “there should be a balanced market, with no need for imports or scope for exports.”

Political uncertainty
Word of the licensing round also follows reports that Gabon has been plunged into a degree of political uncertainty due to the death in June of President Omar Bongo Ondimba, who ruled almost unchallenged for 41 years.

“Political uncertainty is also expected to affect economic activity, as several companies will delay their investments until they are assured the country will remain politically stable,” said the Economist Intelligence Unit in a recent report.

“In addition, despite the recent recovery in oil prices, there is still widespread uncertainty over the prospects for oil prices and some companies will delay investments until contractors’ costs have been significantly reduced,” the EIU report said.

Meanwhile, largely on political grounds, the Gabon government has replaced its oil minister as part of a reshuffle following elections which were necessitated by the death of the former president.

Julien Onkogho is the new oil minister, replacing Casimir Oye Mba, who had opposed the ruling party's choice of Ali Ben Bongo, the late president's son, as its candidate in the country's presidential elections. Ali Ben Bongo claimed victory in September.

Contact Eric Watkins at hippalus@yahoo.com.

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