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The vast African continent is considered to have some of the last remaining hydrocarbon frontiers in the world. Excluding North African countries such as Egypt, Algeria and Libya, and the Sub-Saharan Africa countries of Nigeria, Angola and Gabon, where exploration has been ongoing for decades, exploration in the rest of the continent has been minimal. This article looks at frontier offshore exploration in three key regions: Gulf of Guinea, West Africa pre-salt and East Africa.
Each of the focus regions has its own unique geology and circumstances that have led to increasing levels of interest. In the frontier Gulf of Guinea, moving westwards from Benin to Sierra Leone, operators are chasing Upper Cretaceous Jubilee-type plays along the West African Transform Margin (WATM). Jubilee’s great success has encouraged oil companies to gain a foothold and explore some of the most frontier countries in Africa such as Benin, Togo, Liberia and Sierra Leone. West Africa is the most explored sub-region in Sub-Saharan Africa, with the production histories of Nigeria, Angola and Gabon extending back into the 1950s. Operators are now looking to deeper horizons and pre-salt exploration, which, until recent improvements in seismic data, had been difficult to image through the thick layers of salt deposited during the breakup of Gondwana and the creation of the southern Atlantic sediments.
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