- Over ten years after the last oil was produced in Benin, government now hopes its ultra-deep waters may provide new hope for petroleum revenues.
Bordering Africa's largest oil producer, Nigeria, Benin has long been expected to hold some offshore hydrocarbon resources. But so far, only small quantities have been found offshore in shallow waters. After years of negotiations, Cotonou authorities now have signed a deal to map its ultra-deep waters.
The contract was awarded to the Norwegian seismic mapping and analysis company TGS-NOPEC, which has wide experience along the West African coast and is to include its Benin offshore mapping into a wider regional project. TGS-NOPEC already has seismic data on the shallower waters of Benin.
The Norwegian company yesterday announced that it had "commenced acquisition on a new 3,500-kilometer multi-client 2D seismic survey in offshore Benin." TGS-NOPEC plans to use its vessel 'MV Northern Genesis' to acquire geophysical data from Benin's deepwater region.
The Benin 2D programme was said to be an extension of a 10,000-kilometer 2D seismic survey the company recently had acquired offshore Ghana. TGS-NOPEC plans to expand the same programme to also include the deepwater zone of Togo, whose narrow coastline separates Ghana and Benin.
According to the company, "this 2D project is designed to help further define the extent of the petroleum system in the ultra-deep waters of Benin," which is the least explored offshore zone in Benin.
"The offshore Benin project adds to TGS' extensive coverage in the Gulf of Guinea and continues to clarify the regional geologic picture in this important and developing area of offshore West Africa," explained David Hicks of TGS-NOPEC.
TGS-NOPEC started working in Benin already in 2005, in a bid to convince Beninese authorities to organise a licensing round in its ultra-deep offshore zone, which would necessitate the mapping and consultancy services the company can offer.
The company's 2D seismic programme in the region's ultra-deep zone started already in January 2004. Already then, the Norwegians presented the programme as multinational project that was to cover the offshore zones on Benin, Togo and Ghana.
Benin began producing a modest quantity of oil on the offshore Sèmè field in October 1982. Production however soon ceased and the field was closed down in 1998. Later attempts to reopen Sèmè have so far failed.
Meanwhile, exploration of new sites has been ongoing offshore since then, however so far only on low depths. Only in 2005, the Korea National Oil Corp drilled at 21 meters about 15 nautical miles offshore Benin, but made no marketable discoveries.
Benin is currently heavily dependent on energy imports, with pipelined gas and refined petroleum products imports from neighbouring Nigeria being of key importance.
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