[CAVIE/ACCI] Exxon is betting very big on Africa for its next big find, the supermajor’s head of exploration, Stephen Greenlee, told Bloomberg in an interview. In fact, Greenlee said, Exxon was hoping to strike a discovery of a billion barrels or more in Africa: what is known in the industry as an elephant, Bloomberg’s Kevin Crowley reports.
The U.S. Geological Survey estimated that two years ago there were at least 41 billion untapped barrels of crude oil in sub-Saharan Africa alone. Exxon is focusing on western and southern Africa in its exploration work and has been amassing stakes in oil and gas prospect in Ghana, Mauritania, Namibia, and South Africa.
In Ghana, Exxon tried to buy Kosmos Energy’s stake in the giant Jubilee offshore field in 2009, but the deal was blocked by the Ghana authorities. Last year, the supermajor bought straight from the Ghana government exploration rights for an adjacent block, and plans were to begin working on it this year.
In Namibia, it bought a 30-percent stake in an offshore exploration license. Although no oil has yet been discovered in Namibia, there is a theory that its offshore basins may share characteristics with Brazil’s Campos and Santos—Brazil and Namibia were part of one whole a few billion years ago.
Exxon is also buying seismic data. “We’re acquiring large amounts of seismic data with the idea that in the future one or two of those are going to turn out to be the next Guyana,” Greenlee said. “These are large acreage positions and they’re in areas that we think have promising opportunities for hydrocarbon systems.”
Perhaps the Guyana discovery—an elephant containing an estimated 4 billion barrels of crude—spurred hopes for another one in less explored parts of the world that are nevertheless close to established production sites such as Nigeria and Angola.