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Angola is home to significant upstream potential, as demonstrated by the sharp contrast between its proven and estimated reserves: 9 billion versus 57 billion barrels of oil and 11 trillion versus 27 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
Its three major basins – Kwanza-Benguela, Namibe and Lower Congo – hold development opportunities across each stage of the exploration life-cycle, from frontier exploration to mature producing areas.
As oil and gas explorers seek prospects with lower risk and high potential for commercial production, subsea tie-back projects have emerged as key recipients of foreign direct investment, aimed at unlocking untapped resources and leveraging existing infrastructure.
Holding close geological similarities to hydrocarbon-rich areas like Brazil’s Santos and Campos Basins, pre-salt areas in southern Africa represent frontier acreage with lower exploration risk and higher potential for production. In Angola, the exploration of pre-salt basins became increasingly active following early discoveries in Blocks 20, 21 and 23 in the Kwanza Basin. The evaluation of these discoveries produced a comprehensive geological model for pre-salt prospecting, which has since expanded to include Block 0 offshore Cabinda. Unlike frontier markets, pre-salt discoveries in Angola can be developed at a lower cost by utilizing existing infrastructure, an important factor at a time when companies are prioritizing shorter development cycles. As part of its efforts to focus on subsea tie-backs, infill drilling and other near-hub projects, French major TotalEnergies is exploring the development of a new pre-salt production hub in newly acquired Blocks 21/09 and 20/11 in the Kwanza Basin. The company’s Cameia-Golfinho project– which is expected to reach FID in June – will be the first deepwater project in thepre-salt Kwanza Basin and is estimated to hold 420 million barrels of oil equivalent.
The underexplored Namibe Basin represents another attractive prospect in Angola for international explorers, as one of the largest remaining prospective frontier areas for oil and gas exploration globally. Located along the West African salt margin and spanning more than 65,000 km2, the southernmost basin has remained largely untapped, in sharp contrast to the neighboring Lower Congo and Kwanza Basins that are home to the majority of Angola’s oil and gas activity. New exploration activities are being used to determine the resource potential of the deepwater Blocks 30, 44, and 45 – acquired by ExxonMobil in December 2020 – in water depths ranging between 1,500 and 3,000 meters. Notably, redevelopment efforts undertaken by ExxonMobil in Block 15 resulted in Angola’s first oil find in two decades with the discovery of the Bavuca South-1 exploration well last November, representing the 18th discovery in the block. The U.S. major also recently announced plans to invest $200 million to drilloffshore frontier exploration wells in the Namibe Basin by the end of 2024.
Lower Congo Basin
In the prolific Lower Congo Basin, which holds some of Angola’s largest oil and gas condensate fields by reserves, leading operators are spearheading several large-scale tie-back projectslocated nearby existing production facilities. The Agogo Oil Field Development, which holds one billion barrels of estimated oil reserves is being developed by Azule Energy in Block 15/06, with a view to establishing the Agogo Integrated West Hub that will produce up to 175,000 bpd via the new Agogo FPSO and the existing Ngoma FPSO. Similarly, TotalEnergies is expanding production at its CLOV Field Development Area, which contains 505 million barrels of estimated oil reserves and serves as the fourth production hub in Block 17 offshore Angola. Following Phases 1 and 2, which produced 160,000 bpd and 40,000 bpd, respectively, Phase 3 will unlock an additional 30,000 bpd and capitalize on untapped hydrocarbon reserves.
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