Ghana and four other West African countries are fast gaining global attention and prominence as a result of recent successes in deep water oil exploration.
Deepwater oil exploration in West Africa has brought the sub-region into renewed prominence, catapulting the region's oil production and contribution into the global oil trade.
The deepwater discoveries are domiciled mostly in Ghana, Nigeria, Angola, and Equitorial Guinea.
Players in the oil industry say the region is one of the most prolific deepwater provinces in the world, recording over 10 billion barrels of oil discoveries within the past 15 years.
From a capacity base of about four million barrels per day in 2000, production in the region is expected to grow to about six million barrels per day by 2015.
More recently, Ghana joined the league of oil nations with almost 1 billion barrels offshore Jubilee field discovery. Government officials estimate that Ghana might have as much as 26 billion barrels of hydrocarbon potential.
Participants at last year's national forum on oil and gas development in Accra say the discovery of oil in the country would be able to turn Ghana into an “African tiger.”
“Even without oil, the country is doing very well with its macroeconomic indicators performing creditably. With oil as a shot in the arm, Ghana should be able to fly,” Erik Solheim, Minister of Environment and International Development, Norway, told the media in Accra.
In Nigeria, since the opening up of the deep offshore by allocation of 11 blocks in 1993, there has been a major growth in oil and gas reserves.
Reports say about six billion barrels of oil and gas have been discovered from the province in water depths ranging from 500 million to 2000 million.
“These discoveries translate into a compound annual growth rate of about five percent in the nation's crude oil reserves, which now stands at about 35 billion barrels,” the reports added.
A report available to CITY&BUSINESS GUIDE has quoted Mohammed Barkindo, Group Managing Director of Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, as saying that: “To date, about $33 billion has been spent in the development of nine major deepwater discoveries.” Barkindo said this at the Offshore West Africa Conference in Abuja recently.
In Angola, major discoveries such as Dalia field, the Salsa-1, Terra and Manjericao-1 have all pointed to a high level of prospects in the deep, ultra-deep and previously unexplored central areas of the Angolan deepwater blocks.
In Equatorial Guinea, production from Okupe complex commenced in 2006 and is expected to peak at about 6,000 barrels per day.
“The successes all point to the increasing role of offshore west in the global energy equation,” he said.
This notwithstanding, there are challenges facing deepwater oil exploration, including inadequate skills and capacities in the areas of sub-sea engineering, drilling and reservoir modelling and lack of availability of adequate in-country facilities for engineering, fabrication and manufacturing.
“Perhaps, the most critical challenge to the deepwater oil exploration is the cost of operations. Deepwater developments in the region, particularly in the ultra-deep, require a sustainable crude price in excess of $40 per barrel to support continued production, exploration and developments,” Mr Barkindo noted.
By Felix Dela Klutse