Searching in Senegal: Exploration Activity through 2020


Senegal is not a significant producer of oil and gas, according to figures from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). The country’s total oil supply production has been too small to register for the last few years and the latest available gas output statistics from the EIA show that Senegal has only produced between 1 and 2 billion cubic feet of gross natural gas per year since 1993. With such a low output track-record, the country’s hopes of ever progressing its production levels appeared slim at best. That all changed though when Cairn Energy plc announced its exploration success in the fourth quarter of 2014.

At the end of last year, Cairn – along with its joint venture partners ConocoPhillips, FAR Ltd. and Petrosen – made two separate oil discoveries at the FAN-1 exploration well in the Sangomar Deep block and the SNE-1 well in the Sangomar Offshore block, the latter of which was ranked by IHS CERA as the largest oil discovery worldwide in 2014. In its half yearly operational report released in August, Cairn’s chief executive, Simon Thomson, estimated that these two discoveries, along with currently identified prospects and leads, have a gross mean risked resource base of “more than one billion barrels”. Unsurprisingly, this “exciting opportunity”, is being further explored in the near future, with a variety of planned activities scheduled for the next few months.


Cairn announced Aug. 18 that it had reached an agreement with the government of Senegal over an extensive evaluation plan, which commenced in September with a new 3D seismic survey over the Sangomar Deep, Sangomar Offshore and Rufisque Offshore permits. The survey, which will cover 1,005 square miles, will assist with the delineation of the SNE discovery and is expected to be completed in the fourth quarter of 2015 with final processed products available by mid-2016.

The evaluation plan will also include two appraisal wells, which will be drilled on the SNE field, and one exploration well, which will evaluate the Bellatrix prospect that lies above the northern flank of the SNE discovery. SNE-2, the first of the planned appraisal wells, is situated in the heart of the SNE field, 1.8 miles north of SNE-1, and is scheduled to spud in the fourth quarter of 2015. The well is expected to take approximately 6 weeks to drill and a further 4 weeks to test. SNE-3, the second appraisal well, is expected to begin between the fourth quarter of 2015 and the first quarter of 2016 and will test the southern extent of the SNE field. This well has been described by Cairn as a “key well” to establish the “deliverability” and “full potential” of the field.

The BEL-1 exploration well will commence operations between the first and second quarter of next year, testing the Bellatrix prospect in the process. Plans are in place to develop this well into an additional appraisal well, which will evaluate the northern part of the SNE field. At the end of the third quarter of this year Cairn Energy also presented, to the joint venture group, a program and budget for three further optional wells in Senegal for 2016/2017, suggesting the country will be the subject of continued exploration for these companies in the near term.

Further outlining FAR’s interest in offshore Senegal, the company announced in September that it had entered into a farm-in option agreement with a subsidiary of Trace Atlantic Oil Ltd. for the Djiffere block, which is adjacent to the Rufisque, Sangomar and Sangomar Deep blocks. Under the agreement, FAR has the option to earn a 75 percent working interest in the Djiffere block by drilling an exploration well before July 31, 2018. In exchange for the farm-in option, FAR is funding a 3D survey in Djiffere, which has a total cost of $1.1 million.

Other companies involved in the exploration of Senegal include T5 Oil & Gas, which, through its acquisition of Blackstairs Energy Senegal, obtained a 10,000 square mile production sharing agreement in the Louga Block, onshore Senegal, which was ratified by presidential decree in July 2013. T5 holds a 90 percent initial working interest in the block, with the remaining 10 percent held by Petrosen. Two primary lead areas have been identified on the Louga block, which could contain around 1 trillion cubic feet of gas and over 150 million barrels of oil, according to T5.

The Louga license period runs to July 2020 and the technical program for the block demands a range of exploration activity. Exploration period one, which is three years long and lapses in July 2016, demands the acquisition of 683 miles of 2D seismic and the drilling of one exploration well to 9,842 feet, although this well can be terminated at a shallower depth depending on certain geological outcomes. Exploration period two, which is two years long and runs to July 2018, requires the drilling of one exploration well and exploration period three, which is two years long and runs to July 2020, requires the drilling of two exploration wells. This suggests that T5 will have its hands full in Senegal over the next five years with a block that is “virtually unexplored”, according to the Africa and Middle East focused exploration and production company.

Oryx Petroleum is also conducting a variety of exploration activity in the AGC Shallow and AGC Central blocks, which are joint petroleum exploitation zones established by Senegal and Guinea-Bissau. Oryx, which is the operator of the blocks, has identified three structures in AGC Shallow, of which two are drill-ready prospects, and plans to drill an exploration well in 2016, according to Edison Investment Research Limited. The research company also outlined that Oryx has found shelf-edge plays similar to SNE on seismic data in the deepwater AGC Central block, and stated that Oryx expects to acquire new seismic data in the region next year.

Cairn’s discoveries in Senegal in 2014 sparked a wave of excitement across companies involved in the country’s oil and gas exploration sector, and its upcoming appraisal wells on SNE are likely to reveal the full potential of the field, which could be a hugely significant find for the West African country. With so much confirmed, and potential exploration activity occurring across Senegal in the coming years, it may not be too long before another successful energy firm ignites a new wave of optimism for Senegal’s exploration industry.



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