Nigeria key to targets but South African government a hindrance

Outside Mozambique, South Africa's Sasol Petroleum International's (SPI) only other producing asset in which it has a stake is the Vaalco-operated Etame Marine licence off Gabon, writes Iain Esau.

Production from the Etame and Avouma fields will soon be supplemented by output from a second satellite, Ebouri.

Once this field is up and running and tied back, like Avouma, to the Etame floater, the partners will turn their attention onto exploration once again.

"The accumulations are not large but are pretty economic," says SPI managing director Fay Cranmer.

However, it is developments in Nigeria that will be critical to SPI hitting its targeted output of 80,000 boepd by 2015.

The company holds minority stakes in two key deepwater projects there: Shell's Bonga Southwest/ Aparo and Chevron's Nsiko. These lie in OPLs 214 and 249 respectively and are due on line in2012 at the earliest at gross rates of 150,000 and 100,000 barrels per day.

SPI also has a minority holding in deep-water OPL 247 off Nigeria, plus a stake in Chevron-operated Block 1 in the Nigeria/Sao Tome joint development zone, an asset which hosts the non-commercial Obo find.

SPI is also active in its home country, but Cranmer laments the South African government's stance on fiscal issues, which has so far delayed the company exploring offshore.

SPI has working interests in BHP Petroleum-operated blocks 3A and 4A in the Orange basin off the west coast but there has been "no activity because there is not enough clarity on fiscals".

Onshore South Africa and also in neighbouring Botswana, SPI is on the hunt for coalbed methane resources to provide feedstock for its existing and proposed coal-to-liquids (CTL) plants.

Further afield, says Cranmer, the company is on the hunt for "gassy assets that could be fed into a gas-to-liquids (GTL) plant".

"Naturally, a whole chunk of the Far East is being assessed and we're looking at integrated projects with equity positions in the gas itself," she says.

Australia, where SPI's GTL partner Chevron is particularly active, is known to be a key target area.

SPI is part of the Sasol group's international energy cluster which also includes Sasol Synfuels International and its GTL business, with operations in Nigeria and Qatar, and its CTL division, which is working on major feasibility studies in China, India and the US.

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