Africa and New Technologies

Many of the most exciting discoveries in the last decade have been in Africa – and technological developments have been key to a good number of them.
This article appeared in Vol. 9, No. 3 - 2012


Ghanaian President John Evans Atta Mills opens the valve for First Oil on the Jubilee field in December 2010. Source: Tullow Oil Back at the turn of the century there was a lot of talk about the gas potential of the deep waters of the Nile Delta in the Mediterranean Sea, an area that has since proved very prolific, with latest USGS estimates suggesting that there are still about 223 Tcf of gas to be found. One of the keys to unlocking this region was the use of multi-azimuth seismic, then in its infancy but now, along with wide-azimuth seismic, accepted as standard procedure for detailed prospect investigation.

The excitement travelled westwards – initially to the deep waters off Ghana, and then following additional discoveries further to the west along the West African Transform Margin. Once more, improvements in seismic acquisition technology as well as in processing and imaging techniques, outlining, for example, significant AVO anomalies, made an important impact on these discoveries. Advances in drilling capabilities were also crucial to enable effective exploration in such deep waters, leading to time from discovery to first oil for the Jubilee field to be a mere three and a half years.

Interest has now moved to East Africa, where there have been major discoveries both offshore, particularly in Mozambique, and onshore in the Rift Valley areas of Uganda and Kenya. Recent technological developments in seismic acquisition and processing, as well as the introduction of non-seismic techniques such as full tensor graviometry, are believed to be partly responsible for these recent successes.

In this edition of GEO ExPro we look in more detail at some of these areas, but also at technological developments which could revolutionise exploration in parts of the world which have been stepped over in the search for hydrocarbons, as much of Africa had been a decade ago. New ways of viewing the subsurface, whether through innovative seismic imaging or using the next generation of facies modelling, will all have their part to play in helping to unlock and exploit much needed resources in the future.


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