Table of Contents
The small West African country of Gabon has presented a stable and profitable working environment for Elf and Shell, the main producers, over the last 40 years. Although the political climate in the country has deteriorated in recent years as fraudulent elections and related public protests have undermined the authority of the government, Gabon still presents a relatively attractive environment for foreign investors.
Relationships with international oil companies have been amicable, and the long life of concessions has encouraged perseverance and development of long-range exploration programs in the face of early disappointments. However, this has also led to a rather sluggish overall exploration effort, because the slow turnover of acreage has limited the opportunities for new entries into the exploration arena.
Gabon is the smallest member of OPEC, with production of 300,000 BOPD in 1992. This is the highest level of production ever, but over 50% of the production comes from a single onshore field, Rabi-Kaounga, discovered in 1985 by Shell. This field also increased Gabonís reserves to an all-time high of 1.1 billion barrels in 1992. However, with a reserves life of only ten years, no meaningful expansion of oil production is feasible unless substantial new reserves are added.
The long producing history of Gabon would suggest that it is a relatively mature region with limited future potential. However, the largest producing oilfield was discovered in 1985, thirty years after the initial discoveries were made. Furthermore, nearly all of the oil discovered to date in the Gabon Basin comes from a single pre-salt petroleum system. The variety of potential source rocks in both the pre-salt and post-salt sequences would suggest that there should be more productive plays in this basin. Consequently, both the onshore and offshore areas in the southern part of the Gabon Basin may have considerable remaining exploration potential for oil. The undrilled deepwater blocks in the offshore north of Port Gentil also present interesting exploration possibilities.
Because all of the producing fields in Gabon are operated by large, financially sound and technologically advanced companies (Elf, Shell, Amoco and British Gas) it is difficult to see any avenue of entry by way of field development, enhanced recovery or production purchase.
Reasonable exploration opportunities appear to be available in various parts of the Gabon Basin (both onshore and offshore), for companies prepared to deal with complex salt basin plays. Good exploration potential is also present in the small extension of the Congo Basin into Gabon, although participation would be restricted to farm-ins. The prime attraction of exploration in Gabon is that commercial production can be achieved from quite modest-sized discoveries.
For more information contact:
Petrel Robertson Consulting Ltd.
500, 736- 8th Avenue S.W.
Phone: (403) 218-1618
Fax: (403) 262-9135
This summary, part of Petrel Robertsonís 1995 summary of exploration and development opportunities in 31 countries around the world, has not been updated. Some of the information, particularly relating to political and economic issues, is thus out of date. It is included, however, to demonstrate the breadth and depth of Petrelís work in each of these nations.