Exploration activity along the African Atlantic Margin increased in 2017 relative to the subdued levels seen in 2016. This upward trend is set to continue through 2018. 7 high-impact exploration wells were drilled between Morocco, Mauritania, Senegal, Guinea and Equatorial Guinea in 2017, yielding 4 to 5 discoveries and 2 to 3 failures. Successes in this area include Yakaar, the largest discovery in the world in 2017, which built upon earlier globally significant discoveries over the last 5 years such as SNE (Senegal) and the Tortue fields (Mauritania & Senegal).

2018 has already demonstrated a continued appetite for exploration, particularly in the deepwater, though Requin Tigre-1 failed to find hydrocarbons in the outboard of Senegal, following the trend set by Hippocampe-1 and Lamatin-1 in Mauritania in 2017.

Exploration of the offshore African Atlantic Margin has accelerated in the last 5 years compared to the preceding 5 years, with the exception of Equatorial Guinea. Success rates of exploratory campaigns have varied throughout the two study periods, with Morocco showing significant improvement in exploration success through time from 25% to 67%.

Firms such as Cairn, Kosmos and FAR have achieved exploratory success rates of over 80% across the last 10 years (Atlantic Margin acreage), and have positioned themselves as leaders in the Atlantic Margin domain. Initial efforts in the region were led by firms such as Kosmos and FAR who utilised expertise to explore new and emerging petroleum systems. This is demonstrated by the sharply rising upward limb of a creaming curve since approximately 2010, with the majority contribution coming from the offshore domain.

Creaming curve demonstrating exploration efforts in coastal nations between Morocco and Togo, with several milestone project reserves highlighted

Source: Upstream Analytics                                                                                                                                                                                     © GlobalData

Stabilised commodity prices, and the return to positive cash flows triggered a renewed focus on exploration in 2017. For many firms such as Tullow, increased exploration marks a return to routine business following a period of economic stress, with frontier regions such as the Atlantic Margin offering potentially superior returns and opportunities for growth.