A lot more oil offshore Sierra Leone than early estimates showed

Situated near emerging oil basins offshore West Africa, a review of resources in Sierra Leone suggested a vast increase in potential, an explorer said.

Exploration and production company African Petroleum said there's a lot more oil off the coast of Sierra Leone than previous surveys revealed. Photo courtesy of African Petroleum.
Exploration and production company African Petroleum said there’s a lot more oil off the coast of Sierra Leone than previous surveys revealed. Photo courtesy of African Petroleum.

Exploration and production company African Petroleum said its contracted petroleum consultant, ERC Equipoise, surveyed the prospects off the coast of Sierra Leone. Results show net prospective oil resources were about 75 percent higher than the last estimate from 2015 to more than 2.5 billion barrels.

CEO Jens Pace said Thursday that industry interest has increased along with a decline in the costs necessary to exploit the ultra-deep waters off the West African coast.

“We will continue our de-risking efforts on these licenses and, in due course, work towards formulating a suitable drilling strategy that meets with the current license commitments,” he said in a statement.

Early this month, the company’s regional subsidiary signed agreements with the government of Sierra Leone to use state-owned data to examine the possibility of drilling in the deep waters off the nation’s coast. Up to that point, there’s been little interest in tapping waters that run as deep as 2 miles because the market was prohibitive to the capital investments required.

African Petroleum has licenses to operate in four countries in West Africa, one of the more promising frontier basins in the world. Two Gambian blocks combine for an estimated 1 billion barrels of unrisked barrels of oil and are in close proximity to the SNE oil field offshore Senegal, considered one of the largest discoveries in the world when announced in 2014.

Prior to Thursday’s announcement, African Petroleum said its acreage offshore West Africa could hold as much as 7.4 billion barrels of oil. Performance during the first half of the year, however, showed an $11.5 million loss, against a $3.6 million profit during the same time last year.

By Daniel J. Graeber