- Development drilling in Gabon's offshore Etame field is advancing. While one well has been successfully drilled another is being prepared. Also in the unexploited Avouma field, a first development well is now to be drilled. Despite a wealth of new oil discoveries and ongoing exploration, Gabon's oil production however continues to fall rapidly.
The US-based oil company PanOcean yesterday evening announced the successful completion of the first phase of a new development oil well, Etame 5H, offshore Gabon and the beginning of drilling operations on a new offshore exploration well, Avouma 1, which will be the first on Avouma.
- The vertical portion of Etame 5H has now been cased and the drill rig moved off site while flowlines and umbilicals are installed, according to a press statement by PanOcean. These lines are to tie the well to the floating production, storage and offloading facility ("FPSO") moored at the field, the US company explains.
Flowlines and control umbilicals for the next development well - Etame 6H, which was expected to be drilled early in 2005 - were being installed at the same time as those for Etame 5H. "Once the flowlines are in place, the rig can be moved back onto the site to drill the horizontal portion of the 14 metre thick Gamba sandstone which was penetrated by the vertical well," PanOcean said.
The drill rig, which by now has been moved to the Avouma location, is to return to Etame 5H to drill the horizontal portion of the well as soon as the flowline installation is complete. PanOcean anticipates that drilling and gravel packing the well's horizontal lateral would take approximately 15 days.
Once the lateral is connected, the well can commence production to the floating production facility. "First production from Etame 5H is anticipated in August 2004 and is expected to increase total Etame production to over 20,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) ... from current levels of 15,000 bopd," the PanOcean statement said.
While the flowlines and umbilicals on Etame 5H are being installed, the rig used to drill Etame 5H has been moved to the Avouma 1 location, approximately 17 kilometres south of the main Etame field. Drilling operations are already underway and the exploration well is currently at approximately 750 metres depth.
The target for the Avouma well is the oil-rich Gamba sandstone, with the Dentale sandstones as secondary targets. According to PanOcean, this is the second of two commitment wells that were required from the company under the current exploration phase of its production sharing contract with the government of Gabon.
PanOcean owns a 31.36 percent working interest in the Etame field, which is among the smaller Gabonese oil fields. Other partners are on Etame include Vaalco Energy - which holds 28.07 percent and is the field's operator) and Sasol (27.75 percent). Energy Africa holds a further 7.5 percent.
Etame is one of the many smaller oil fields in Gabon that only recently have been brought on-line. Etame's proved plus probable reserves in the field were estimated in 2003 to be as much as 60 million barrels. Production is from the field is steadily increasing as new wells are connected to the floating production facility.
The growing production at Etame however cannot counterweight the rapid decline in Gabon's oil production since the all time peak in 1997 at 371,000 barrels per day. This has now fallen to under 240,000 barrels per day. The main reason for this steady decline is the emptying of Gabon's largest oil field, Rabi-Kounga. Less than one quarter of the field's estimated recoverable reserves remains available for further production.
Since oil production started to fall, Gabonese authorities have encouraged a large-scale exploration of possible new oil resources. These efforts have been met by great interest in the international oil industry, which has invested large amounts in seismic explorations and test drilling, both offshore and onshore.
As a result, Gabon's proven oil reserves have doubled since 1996 and have now reached an estimated 2.6 billion barrels. This however has not led to an increased production and there is still no sign of a turning point in the declining oil exports. Indeed, IMF projections for Gabon's economy foresee a further detraction of the national oil sector in the years to come.
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