Africa’s Offshore Oil Drilling Industry Is Shifting

By D.A. Barber AFKI Original Published: February 3, 2014, 11:48 am

Recent oil drilling success offshore West Africa has led to increased interest by outside investors looking to explore  even more sites. Of particular interest are the “new frontier countries” beyond sub-Saharan West Africa, with the coastal waters of East Africa and South Africa getting in on the boom.

It’s a development that is important to some of the members of the American Petroleum Institute, Eric Wohlschlegel,  American Petroleum Institutes’ Communications Director told AFKInsider.

“This is something that we are monitoring,” Wohlschlegel said.

Along with dreams of fortune are issues of concern about the impact on the environment and how more locals without requisite job skills can be included in the growing workforce needs.

Sunny Oputa, CEO of Houston-based Energy & Corporate Africa told AFKInsider  he agrees that the new offshore oil finds are of interest to American companies. Oputa has been CEO since 2006 of of Energy & Corporate Africa, a company that offers training to deal with the African oil industry and is sponsor of the upcoming Seventh Annual Sub-Saharan Africa Oil & Gas Conference, scheduled in Houston in May.

But according to Oputa, there are changes coming in how Africa deals with international oil companies.

“You want local content when you talk about where people want to see the adequate utilization of the local level in current oil and gas operations,” Oputa told AFKInsider.

Ever since oil worth developing was first discovered in the Gulf of Guinea, the offshore area of West Africa has been eyed by both local and foreign oil production companies.

Nigeria has become the region’s major oil producer. However, international development has slowed due to threats of violence, theft, corruption and Nigeria petroleum industry rules that have remained in legislative limbo for six years.

With the oil production development slowdown in Nigeria, Angola has recently emerged as an equally significant country for oil exploration and threatens to dethrone Nigeria as Africa’s leading oil producer. In fact, more than one-third of all discoveries made over the last three years in the region have occurred offshore of Angola.

Ghana has seen a similar wave of discoveries in recent years, accounting for 13 of the 52 offshore oil and gas discoveries made. Much of that happened since 2007 when Tullow Oil discovered the Jubilee oil field in Ghana – one of the largest recent discoveries with an estimated potential of 5 billion barrels of oil.

In July 2013, Singapore’s International Enterprise, which leads Singapore’s external economic connections, opened a new investment office in AccraGhana, to extend the Asian country’s investment in Ghana and West Africa. It’s a first of its kind in sub-Saharan Africa, according to IE Singapore.

Business between Ghana and Singapore — estimated to be around $1 billion — is expected to increase. The collaboration between the two governments will center on infrastructural development while private sector investment is expected to focus on manufacturing and development of offshore oil rigs.

Big Oil Investments

According to the research firm Wood Mackenzie, sub-Saharan Africa could be pumping an additional 400,000 barrels of oil per day by 2018, bringing it to a total crude oil output of 6.6 million barrels per day. Because of this, the current development players are the who’s who of international offshore oil drilling.

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