China’s CNOOC Ltd is drilling on what could be a play-opening wildcat offshore Gabon, chasing a huge deep-water oil prospect.

The Tigre-1 probe is important because it marks the first exploration foray into Gabon’s promising deep waters for at least five years, and also aims to discover liquid hydrocarbons, not the huge but non-commercial volumes of gas previously found in this area.

TotalEnergies, Shell and Petronas all made significant gas-rich discoveries between 2013 and 2018, but these remain untapped, Upstream understands, because the Libreville-based government has yet to enact legislation or fiscal terms that allow for the development of gas.