Glencore set to spin the drillbit off Cameroon

GLENCORE, the London-listed commodities player, is set to make a delayed exploration splash at its Matanda Block in Cameroon this month as it embarks on a three- well wildcatting campaign.

The company has secured Maersk Drilling jack-up Maersk Endurer, which arrived in Cameroon last month after being transported aboard Dockwise’s Black Marlin barge from Cyprus.

Before that, the rig was working for Petrobel in Egypt’s Red Sea under a seven-year charter before undergoing life extension work in Egypt and being transported to Cyprus.

Glencore had been due to take delivery of Maersk Endurer at the start of January but a Maersk Drilling spokesman said Petrobel’s contract was extended “in order to drill an additional well”.

He said: “This postponed — in mutual agreement with Glencore — the start-up date for the subsequent operation in Cameroon.”

The spokesman said the contract with Glencore covers three wells of about 100 days each.

Glencore declined to comment on its Matanda exploration campaign, though it is understood the first well is due to spud at the end of this month.

Market rumours suggested a fire had broken out on the jack-up just after it arrived outside Douala, but this was dismissed by the rig owner, saying an alarm had been triggered but there was no fire.

“On 8 February, a third-party electrical specialist on Maersk Endurer accidently dropped a pen light into the electrical cabinet causing a short circuit on the busbar (electrical conductor.)”

He said this “generated smoke, which triggered the fire alarm” but on inspection it was “determined that no fire had broken out”.

Repairs were completed within “a few hours”, said the spokesman, adding that the incident did not interfere with the on-going preparation for Glencore’s drilling operation.

The rig is a high-specification unit because the operator is said to be keenly aware of the possibility of encountering high pressures in wells in this part of Cameroon’s Douala and Kribi-Campo basins, said a well-placed source.

Glencore, partnered by privately-owned Afex Global, will be hoping to strike commercial volumes of liquids because gas discoveries in Cameroon have proved to be challenging to develop because the country has no obvious market.

However, with UK-based junior Victoria Oil & Gas now supplying gas to businesses in Douala from its Logbaba field, there is a sense that things are slowly changing.

The government appears to be seriously considering gas monetisation schemes both for power and petrochemicals, putting liquefied natural gas exports on the backburner for now.

Matanda straddles the coastal zone between Mount Cameroon and Douala and hosts two gas-condensate wells that found and delineated the North Matanda discovery made by Gulf Oil in the early 1980s.

North Matanda holds proven reserves of about 74 billion cubic feet of gas and 2 million barrels of condensate.

Glencore’s two wells will target Tertiary and Cretaceous prospects defined from 200 square kilo-metres of 3D seismic data acquired last year by Geoex International.

Glencore and Afex signed a production sharing agreement for Matanda in April 2008.



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