OPINION: Unitising hydrocarbon reservoirs that straddle different licences has always been a quagmire for the industry because nobody has full details about reservoirs buried thousands of metres underground and opinions can vary on what sub-surface and well data reveal.

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It is often said that geophysics is more an art than a science, which means that data can be interpreted in subjective ways. This is why unitisation deals can take years to conclude — and are often revisited in light of new information.

So this month’s decision by Ghana’s government to impose a unitisation deal on Eni — operator of the producing Sankofa field — and Springfield E&P — which made the Afina discovery last year — is unusual.

Based on data available to state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation — a partner in both assets — the Accra administration believes Afina and Sankofa are one field and, despairing of Eni and Springfield reaching an agreement, it issued a directive that split the field in favour of the domestic company.

Springfield welcomed the directive, while Eni said it does not have access to data that proves Afina is in communication with Sankofa and is challenging Accra's order.

Whatever the eventual outcome, Ghana’s move to impose a deal signals the government’s frustration that the pair have failed to exchange data sets as required and get a deal done quickly.

As the energy transition gains momentum and hydrocarbon resources risk becoming stranded, Accra will want to remove unnecessary obstacles that prevent their rapid exploitation.

(This is an Upstream opinion article.)