Deepsea Deals Take Angola into New Oil Era-Sonangol

Source: Reuters 12/20/2011, Location: Africa

Angola's signing of several deals with major firms to explore for oil in ultra-deepwater or "subsalt" offshore blocks means the country has entered a new era in the business, state oil company Sonangol's CEO was quoted as saying.

State news agency Angop, monitored in Lisbon, cited Sonangol CEO Manuel Vicente as saying the signing of the production sharing contracts came a week after the company had a positive exploration result in the Kwanza Basin. "Last week we had confirmation of the existence of hydrocarbons in the Kwanza Basin," Angop cited Vicente as saying. "I would say the we found what we have been looking for and now have results that encourage us to proceed". He added that confirmation of oil in the basin in commercial quantities means Africa's second-largest oil producer after Nigeria "is entering in a new era in the sector".

Sonangol signed a total of 11 deals with seven oil majors to drill thousands of metres under the Kwanza Basin seabed through a salt layer, which mirrors one off Brazil where major volumes of high-quality light oil have been discovered in recent years. France's Total, Britain's BP, Norwegian firm Statoil, Italy's ENI, Spain's Repsol and U.S. firms Cobalt and ConocoPhilips won licences to operate blocks, with many of them also winning stakes in other blocks.

Sonangol retained stakes in several blocks directly and also through its China-Sonangol joint-venture with the China International Fund. Norwegian energy company Statoil said it had been named operator of two deepwater blocks in the Kwanza Basin off Angola with an official saying the considers the region as "some of the very best unexplored acreage left on the planet." Cobalt said in a statement it plans to have its first well in Block 20 in 2013.

Angola is heavily dependent on oil revenues. The government expects the economy to grow 12.8 percent in 2012 boosted by strong oil output, after weak output due to technical problems led it to cut its growth estimate for 2011 to 3.4 percent from 7.6 percent.


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