Angola battles to revive oil exploration as output declines

Kaombo Norte, a storage vessel off the coast of Angola. The African country is offering tax breaks to lift production. (AFP)
Updated 16 November 2018
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Angola battles to revive oil exploration as output declines

  • Without another mega-project like Total’s Kaombo on the horizon and fields getting old, Africa’s second-largest crude producer is facing a steep decline
  • Sonangol, the state oil company, is negotiating contracts for new blocks with oil majors and Angola plans to hold an auction next year

LUANDA: On Saturday, nearly two decades after securing the initial rights, Total’s CEO, Patrick Pouyanne, was in Luanda to snip the ribbon on a $16 billion oil project. It is not clear when he, or his peers, will be celebrating in Angola again.

Without another mega-project like Total’s Kaombo on the horizon and fields getting old, Africa’s second-largest crude producer is facing a steep decline unless it can revive exploration in what was once one of the world’s most exciting offshore prospects.
Sonangol, the state oil company, is negotiating contracts for new blocks with oil majors and Angola plans to hold an auction next year, the first tender for exploration rights since 2011.
It is a race against time for a country where oil accounts for 95 percent of exports and around 70 percent of government revenues. Luck will also play a part, as it always does in exploration where finding oil can never be guaranteed.
But without new projects, output could fall to 1 million barrels per day by 2023, according to the oil ministry. That is down from 1.5 million today and nearly half of what Angola was producing a decade ago. The country risks having its OPEC quota cut and is struggling to ensure the long-term feed for its $10 billion liquid natural gas plant.
President Joao Lourenco won an August 2017 election promising an “economic miracle” in Angola, which despite its oil wealth struggles to provide basic services to a mostly impoverished population that is growing at 3 percent a year. But falling oil production means a third consecutive contraction is expected in 2018, even while annual inflation runs at 18 percent.
To turn things around, Angola has asked international oil companies to the table, offering better fiscal terms and more collaboration.
With the time from exploration to first oil on new areas anything from five to 10 years, Angola is also offering tax breaks to encourage companies to link existing marginal discoveries to operating production platforms.
There are signs the measures are working, though some oil experts wonder at what cost for the southwest African country.
“The level of exploration activity in Angola is beginning to change,” Sonangol’s chairman, Carlos Saturnino, said at Saturday’s inauguration.
He expects between five and 10 new concessions to be signed next year.
Exxon, he said, had shown interest in some blocks in southern Angola’s unexplored Namib basin, while advanced discussions are being held with BP, Equinor and ENI for the rights to the ultra-deep offshore blocks 46 and 47.
BP and ENI declined to comment. Equinor and Exxon did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Total, which operates 40 percent of Angola’s production, plans to drill its first exploration well in four years. Beneath 3,630m of water on block 48, it will be one of the world’s deepest.
“We hope it will be a play-opener for the ultra-deep in Angola,” said Andre Goffart, senior vice president for development. “We are seeing a new wave of exploration in Angola.”
These signs of fresh exploration come after a period of near-paralysis due to a lack of drilling success, a slump in oil prices and a deteriorating relationship between Sonangol and the oil majors.
Angola’s offshore reserves are expensive to explore and develop, making it a hard sell for shareholders when oil is at $40. The number of rigs operating off Angola’s shores dropped from 18 in early 2014 to just two in 2017, according to oil services company Baker Hughes.
The steep drop in prices from 2014 came just as companies were smarting from the failure to discover Brazil-like oil
reservoirs beneath a layer of salt on the African side of the Atlantic. The search for the “Angolan pre-salt” resulted in some of the most expensive dry wells ever drilled and sapped exploration appetite.
Critics say the situation was exacerbated by Isabel dos Santos, the former president’s daughter and previous chair of Sonangol, under whose leadership new projects ground to a halt. Dos Santos denies allegations of mismanagement, saying she helped turn around an almost bankrupt company.
“There are few places in the world right now where the oil majors are in as good a negotiating position as here,” said one international oil executive in Luanda on condition of anonymity.
Some local experts fear the deals Angola is striking are too beneficial for the companies, although details remain private.
“If Angola gives away too much it could create problems further down the line,” said Jose Oliveira, an oil specialist at the Catholic University in Luanda.
But the country has little choice given its imminent production decline and a lack of money or expertise to lead the drilling campaigns itself.


Jubail petrochemical complex could lead to homegrown car industry

Updated 27 June 2019
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Jubail petrochemical complex could lead to homegrown car industry

  • Advanced Petrochemical said it signed a memorandum of understanding with SK Gas to build a propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene complex
  • The project is expected to produce high value plastics grades for the automotive industry as well as other specialized grades that are currently being imported into Saudi Arabia

LONDON: Advanced Petrochemical and South Korean SK Gas plan to develop a $1.8bn petrochemical complex in Jubail that could help plans to develop a homegrown car industry in Saudi Arabia.
It comes amid increased economic cooperation between Riyadh and Seoul following an $8.3 billion economic co-operation pact struck this week during the first visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to South Korea.
The Saudi petchem producer said it signed a memorandum of understanding with SK Gas to build a propane dehydrogenation and polypropylene complex. The project is expected to produce “high value plastics grades for the automotive industry” as well as other specialized grades that are currently being imported into Saudi Arabia, Advanced Petrochemical said in a filing to the Tadawul stock exchange on Wednesday.

 

Separately the company said it has received propane feedstock allocation from the Kingdom’s Ministry of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources for the project, which is slated to start in 2024.
Advanced Petrochemical also disclosed in a third filing that it was conducting a feasibility study for a cracker project in the Kingdom.
These latest deals reflect twin objectives to develop high-value manufacturing in the Kingdom to create jobs while also investing heavily in the petrochemicals sector to capitalize on rising global demand for high value plastics.
Saudi Arabia is the largest new automotive sales and auto parts market in the Middle East, accounting for an estimated 40 percent of all vehicles sold in the region, according to the US export.gov website.The addition of potentially as many as 3 million women drivers to the roads is expected to further spur domestic demand.
Saudi companies, spearheaded by Saudi Aramco, are investing billions of dollars in petrochemical projects worldwide to meet rising global demand. Petrochemicals are set to account for more than a third of the growth in world oil demand to 2030, and nearly half the growth to 2050, adding nearly 7 million barrels of oil a day by then, according to the International Energy Agency (IEA).
Demand for plastics — the key driver for the petchem industry — has outpaced all other bulk materials (such as steel, aluminum, or cement), nearly doubling since 2000, the IEA estimates.

FACTOID

40% - Saudi Arabia is the largest new automotive sales and auto parts market in the Middle East, accounting for an estimated 40 percent of all vehicles sold in the region.