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West Africa: Next big deal in oil?

Early players expecting to pull as much as 125,000 bpd from regional waters.

By Daniel J. Graeber
West Africa: Next big deal in oil?
With the right investment strategies, calmer waters off the coast of West African could make economic sense of the oil industry. Photo by James Jones Jr./Shutterstock

LONDON, July 8 (UPI) -- With the right investment strategies, the emerging offshore oil prospects in West Africa could be the industry's next big deal, an executive leader said.

West Africa has drawn interest from international energy companies eager to tap into unexploited reserves.

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Africa-focused Tullow Oil is among the early players in West African basins, tapping into prospects off the coast of Ghana. The region's deepwater Tweneboa-Enyenra-Ntomme prospect, known also as the TEN project, should deliver its first oil by 2016. At its peak, the company said the prospect is expected to produce about 80,000 barrels of oil per day.

The Jubilee field off the Ghanaian coast could eventually produce more than 125,000 bpd.

Keith Millheim, a director at drilling and production company Atlantis Offshore, said in an interview with energy reporting website Rigzone, published Wednesday, the reserves are there for smaller companies willing to make bets on the myriad smaller prospects off the West African coast.

"There is possibly more oil in the small fields in West Africa than in the reserves in the big fields," he said. "If you can [produce from these fields] economically, it's a company maker."

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Scottish energy company Cairn in November announced its discovery in the deep waters off the coast of Senegal could hold as 670 million barrels of recoverable reserves. Millheim said that, unlike the tough sea conditions in the North Sea or in the Gulf of Mexico, prone to hurricane threats, offshore West Africa may be more palatable to energy companies.

Unlike the North Sea, which comes with environmental challenges of rough weather and sea ice, the coast of West Africa is a more ideal place to work -- more ideal than the Gulf of Mexico, which battles hurricanes and other destructive currents, Millheim said.

"The resources are there. Who's going to pursue them and how long will it take? Those are the questions," he told Rigzone.

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