- After a prolonged period without a formal offering, the government of Gabon has responded to the upsurge in oil exploration interest in Central Africa by announcing a new licence round for 2009.
"This new round, due to be launched shortly by the Energy Ministry, is expected to be for the offshore deep water areas, with particular emphasis on the pre-salt targets in the southern area of Gabon," according to the Paris-based geophysical company CGGVeritas. Pre-salt targets are currently creating a considerable amount of interest following the recently announced successes in deep water offshore Brazil.
In support of the international call for participation in the new licence round by Gabon's Deputy Energy Minister, Sylvain Momoadjambo, it is expected that a number of open deep-water blocks will be made available, amounting to approximately 110,000 square kilometres of total acreage.
Gabon is a country with proven hydrocarbon resources and recent years have seen an increase in licensing and exploration activity, encouraged by sustained high oil prices and growing worldwide demand.
Gabon has a well established oil and gas industry and was producing significant amounts of oil in the 1970s, with production peaking in 1997 at 371,000 barrels per day. By 2003 this had fallen to less than 290,000 barrels. However, reserves have doubled since 1996 and are now estimated at 2.6 billion barrels, giving significant statistical support to those promoting the region's potential, according to CGGVeritas.
In support of the upcoming licence round, CGGVeritas has announced a contract with the Direction Generale des Hydrocarbures (DGH) to acquire a new extensive non-exclusive 2D survey in Gabon's highly prospective waters, to be completed in 2008.
According to CGGVeritas chief geologist Steve Toothill, "there is considerable untapped potential in the salt province of Gabon, especially in the pre-salt section which is currently poorly resolved on seismic. Petroleum systems have been identified in all the coastal basins and rich source rocks are present, the Melinia shale, for example, averaging 5-6% TOC. Sand-rich sediment supply along with both pre- and post-salt deposition provides excellent reservoir potential while an active tectonic history, together with salt movement, are ideal for generating large structural traps with potentially very significant reserves".
Oil and gas exploration in Gabon dates back to the 1920s with the first commercial discovery, the Ozouri field, being made by Elf and brought onstream in 1956. Between then and the late 1990s a large number of discoveries were made both on- and offshore by major and medium-sized oil companies with production having long been established from the pre-salt section onshore.
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