Nigeria has caught up with Angola in the drilling of crude oil, as both nations are now the biggest crude oil drilling markets in Africa, data from the June 2023 Offshore Rigs Tracker, released on Monday by Hawilti and the Caverton Offshore Support Group Plc, showed.

Nigeria lost its position as top African oil producer several times on the back of repeated crude theft and pipeline vandalism, but is now showing signs of recovery, going by the recent monthly oil production figures released by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries.

“Nigeria has caught up with Angola to also take the position of biggest drilling market this year, with a total of eight drilling campaigns confirmed offshore in both countries.

“However, activity is likely to remain higher in Angola as most drilling campaigns there are confirmed until the second half of 2024 already to support exploratory, infill, and development drilling,” the report stated.

It said several of the oil rigs mobilised offshore Nigeria had been extended, including the Valaris DS-10 for SNEPCo (Shell), and Shelf Drillings Baltic and Mentor rigs, for TotalEnergies and First E&P, respectively.

In addition, it stated that Shelf Drilling had also secured new contracts for the Adriatic I and the Scepter units which were providing a boost to Nigeria’s offshore drilling activities.

“The former is for drilling on Oriental Energy Resources Ebok Field scheduled between May and August this year, while the latter is for a much longer, two-year contract for an undisclosed operator.

“In total, Nigeria will see eight offshore drilling campaigns take place this year at any point in time, putting it at the same level as Angola,” the report stated.

It said the southern African country, Angola, had long held the position of top drilling destination on the continent as international oil companies had several rigs mobilised on long-term contracts there to support infill, development, and exploratory drilling in deep-water.

“The recovery of Nigeria’s offshore drilling activity is welcome news as the industry continues to be a main driver of the Nigerian economy. This is in turn providing unique opportunities for aviation services providers to pursue growth opportunities and provide safe and sustainable solutions to transport workers and equipment to offshore drilling rigs and platforms.

“Such market activity also contributes to the development of other sectors such as search and rescue, VIP transport, and executive charter services,” Capt Ibrahim Bello, Managing Director at Caverton Helicopters, stated in the crude oil rigs tracker report.

The Offshore Rigs Tracker offers the African petroleum industry the opportunity to track rigs’ movements and drilling campaigns offshore sub-Saharan Africa,  covering only offshore drilling activity (shallow and deep-water) and does not cover onshore and swamp areas.

Released every quarter by the Caverton Offshore Support Group Plc in partnership with Hawilti Ltd, the tracker serves as an indicator of upstream dynamics in sub-Saharan Africa, both for exploration and production.

The report further stated that Africa’s offshore rigs count had kept growing since the start of 2023, with 38 drilling rigs contracted this year so far.

It stated that recent contract extensions and new contract awards had confirmed 2023 as one of the biggest years for offshore drilling activity on the continent in a decade.

The French oil major, TotalEnergies, according to the report, was the most active operator offshore Africa this year, with a total of eight rigs mobilised throughout 2023, including three in Angola, two in Nigeria, two in Namibia, and one in West Africa whose destination was yet to be disclosed.

“In Nigeria, TotalEnergies has also drilled the Ntokon Central shallow water prospect on OML 102, where it recently announced a significant discovery.

“More importantly, it is executing a multi-well deep-water campaign on its Egina and Akpo hubs within OML 130. Egina is notably experiencing a rapid production decline which the drilling campaign seeks to address. Up to nine wells are scheduled on both Egina and Akpo, including potential exploratory drilling of nearby prospects,” the report stated.

A breakdown on the number of rigs mobilised on the continent in 2023 showed that West Africa had 16, Southern Africa, 13; Central Africa,11; East Africa, 0.

It was observed that offshore drilling campaigns remained largely driven by international oil companies this year, especially TotalEnergies and Eni, as most drilling activities were located in deep-water where IOCs had most of their producing and exploration portfolio.

The report stated that in West Africa, “Nigeria is finally back in business with most rigs schedules extended and new contracts signed since the start of the year.

“Importantly, the country has two deepwater rigs active this year, including the Valaris DS-10 for SNEPCO (Shell) on its Bonga hub (OML 118) until Q1 2024, and the Gerry de Souza for TotalEnergies on its Egina and Akpo hubs (OML 130).”

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