Leasing activity is showing the effects of a low price last summer, but with some bright prospects on the horizon that have some major players suiting up for some action.
The bright spots include the prospect of Libya opening some opportunities and Bolivia taking steps to become a major production hub, according to Jay Gallagher, editor of the IHS Energy Group International Newsletter.
Two major finds along a multi-mile trend in Bolivia have expectations rising -- especially with the commissioning of the Bolivia-Brazil pipeline that has lots of capacity for new customers.
Meanwhile, the long-anticipated bid round in Brazil received mixed reviews, with 14 of 38 pre-qualified companies making offers on 12 of 27 blocks offered in the first round.
The following is a midyear roundup of upcoming lease and exploration opportunities and other upstream activities.
Sources for this compilation are Petroconsultants International Acreage Inventory, a supplement of the IHS Energy Group International Oil Letter, and various announcements from companies and embassies of the countries involved.
Despite escalating strife over the continent, especially in Congo, Nigeria and Angola, the deep offshore areas continue to attract attention as production ramps up in still-being-developed areas.
Angola -- Three deep-water blocks in depths over 2,500 meters covering 132,000 square kilometers have been delineated for a restricted tender formula. The new tracts are further seaward from currently awarded acreage.
Meanwhile, civil war has put a planned Kwanza Basin bid round on hold.
Cameroon -- A licensing round that includes unexplored onshore and deep-water acreage is planned to open Sept. 30.
Promotional seminars are planned in Houston and in London following the AAPG international meeting in Birmingham, England, on Sept. 12-15.
The onshore acreage is the Logone Birni Basin, which forms part of the Cretaceous and Tertiary Central African Rift System, and a pipeline is planned from the Doba oilfields in Chad through northeastern Cameroon to Kribi.
The about 2,400-square-kilometers of the offshore acreage being offered is in water depths of between 200 and 1,500 meters in the Douala/Kribi-Campo Basin.
Egypt -- An international tender call has been issued for 15 onshore and offshore blocks, including three unexplored tracts in the Red Sea near the junction of the Gulf of Suez, Gulf of Aqaba and the northern Red Sea. Bids are accepted through Oct. 31.
Equatorial Guinea -- Bids for another West Africa deep-water opportunity opened at the AAPG international conference in Rio last fall, with the bid deadline in August. The bid area covered 60 blocks over 38,000 square kilometers, with 53 of the blocks in water of more than 200 meters deep.
Libya -- Competitive bidding, for the most part, will replace private negotiations for tracts as the country's 40-year-old Petroleum Law is revamped, with the oil-rich, underdeveloped country looking toward a licensing round next year (related story).
Namibia -- With no bids being received on a licensing round that closed in March, oil ministers have approved a plan for an open-ended round, with all the unlicensed offshore acreage remaining available continuously.
Nigeria -- With OPEC Secretary General Rilwanu Lukman being named chief petroleum advisor to new President Olusegun Obasanjo, observers are hoping for some policy decisions in the strife-troubled oil center. Lukman, who spoke at the AAPG international conference in Vienna in 1997 and was former Nigerian oil minister in the 1980s, is widely recognized as a steady and competent manager.
Final approval is awaited for 11 concessions in ultra-deep waters, which were dealt under the outgoing military regime of General Abubakar.
Other changes being considered include whether the government will agree to sell a stake in the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp. joint ventures themselves.
With petroleum providing 90 percent of the country's exports, the oil sector decisions will undoubtedly affect the stability of the country itself. Over 200 were reportedly killed in bloody tribal clashes in the oil-rich Niger Delta area in early June.
Meanwhile, the deep-water offshore bonanza will again beckon as the government has delineated new concessions beyond the 11 blocks awaiting the exploration green light.
The schedule for the international tender for the new tracts is yet to be announced.
Sao Tome & Principe -- Geco-Prakla and Mobil are gathering 2-D data in an offshore area that includes two blocks encompassing 48,560 square kilometers being considered for licensing.
Tanzania -- Western Geophysical has shot a 7,000-square-kilometer spec seismic survey in a deep water area that will form the basis for block demarcation for a tender call expected in April.
Togo -- PGS-Nopec is handling the data package for 15 offshore blocks on 4,100 square kilometers of acreage being offered with applications due before Nov. 1.
Tunisia -- Ten offshore and three onshore tracts are being offered in the 1999 inventory of available acreage, with no-fee data rooms opened in Tunis by state company ETAP.
Bulgaria -- Ten onshore blocks in northern Bulgaria and four offshore blocks in the Black Sea are expected to be tendered before year's end.
Croatia -- State company INA-Naftaplin has confirmed plans to open all prospective exploration acreage in the Pannonian Basin for farm-in.
Denmark -- Applications for unlicensed offshore acreage east of longitude 6 degrees 15 minutes east will be accepted through September.
Faroe Islands -- Proposals for the first Faroese licensing round is expected in the fourth quarter now that British, Danish and Faroe authorities have agreed on the demarcation of the maritime boundary over the previously disputed zone northeast of the Shetland Islands. Acreage will be drawn from an inventory of more than 100 industry-nominated blocks.
Greece -- An international bid round over unlicensed areas of western Greece has been postponed.
Hungary -- A second licensing round is planned in the last half of this year, with 14,000 square kilometers in five areas being proposed for bidding.
Latvia -- A tender call is expected in the latter half of this year, with inventory not yet specified.
Norway -- The deadline recently closed for nominations for unlicensed acreage in the Norwegian Sea for inclusion in the 16th Licensing Round.
Romania -- Bid winners were expected to be announced by Aug. 1 on nine onshore and two offshore tracts that encompass 21,830 square kilometers.
United Kingdom -- The Faroe Island agreements (see above) will allow further planning of a licensing round in the previously disputed zone off the western coast of Scotland.
Observers say some mature North Sea acreage also will be included in the round due late this year.
LATIN AMERICA TOP
Argentina -- Under Plan Argentina, acreage is routinely opened for international tender on a rotational two-month basis with Round 43 closing July 31 and Round 44 opening Aug. 1.
Bolivia -- The opening of the Bolivia/Brazil pipeline has placed more value in the offerings of this country as it seeks to become a 'hub' of production. The five tracts offered include a total of 17,960 square kilometers in five different basins.
Meanwhile, Total has reported a major find in the Sub-Andean Zone, with gas flowing at the rate of 33,500,000 cubic feet and 830 barrels of condensate a day from a lower Devonian reservoir in the Huamampampa Formation.
Observers note the size and structural similarities between the discovery and the Petrobras-operated San Alberto field along a trend 12 kilometers to the north.
Brazil -- Results were mixed for the historic First International E&P Bid Round completed in mid-June. (related story)
Costa Rica -- Fourteen onshore and eight offshore blocks have been designated for bidding, with a deadline of Sept. 30.
Ecuador --A tender is expected for development rights to a heavy oil project in the eastern Oriente, with an exploration offer for acreage adjacent to the Peruvian frontier expected in late '99 or early 2000.
Guatemala -- Formal licensing rounds have been put aside, with data still available on the 1998 bid round that drew little interest.
Nicaragua -- Two-D seismic is being shot over the Caribbean Margin waters of the Miskito Basin in anticipation of the country's first international bid round in mid-2000.
Trinidad & Tobago -- A tender is expected in late '99 or early 2000 for Trinidad's deep water bid round.
Venezuela -- With the new ministry announcing that future investment strategies will shift from oil to natural gas, observers expect a 'gas' licensing round announced before 2000.
NORTH AMERICA TOP
Canada -- A major non-exclusive 3-D shoot by Veritas DGC has begun in the deep Atlantic waters offshore Nova Scotia.
The company said the shoot will span two operating seasons.
PACIFIC RIM TOP
Australia -- Fifty-seven blocks are being offered from the 1999 offshore acreage release, with bids on 20 of the blocks closing in October and on the remainder in April.
Australia/Indonesia -- Bid results were expected on the one tract offered by the Timor Gap Joint Authority in Zone of Cooperation 'A.' Four other blocks are expected to be released for bid later this year.
China --The bid deadline is September for six offshore tracts offered by the state-run CNOOC in the East China Sea, Pearl River Mouth, Beibu Gulf and Yinggehai basins.
Meanwhile, yet unnamed nominated tracts have been approved for a future tender offer by state company CNPC. IHS Energy Group reports approved tracts include risk exploration acreage in various basins of western and west-central China as well as onshore field development projects in eastern China.
Phillips announced a discovery and an appraisal well in Bohai Bay that tested potentials of 3,000-5,000 barrels of oil a day with gross pay interval of over 1,400 feet in the discovery and 1,700 feet in the appraisal.
The wells, 1.6 miles apart, were drilled to 5,531 feet and 5,325 feet, respectively, in about 75 feet of water.
Indonesia -- Up to 11 production-sharing blocks are expected to be up for tender during 1999, while 19 additional tracts are available for out-of-round negotiations.
New Zealand -- Bids were being studied following a licensing round for six blocks in the onshore Taranaki Basin, North Island. Open acreage outside the basins remains available under the Acceptable Frontier Offer system.
Philippines -- Five areas have been opened for out-of-round negotiations.
MIDDLE EAST TOP
Iran -- Bids for geophysical work in the Balal oilfield in the Persian Gulf are being sought by Elf and Bow Valley, with a goal of producing the field in 2001.
Iraq -- Nine exploration blocks encompassing 112,700 square kilometers in the Western Desert along the Saudi frontier are planned for offer, pending United Nations sanction action. IHS Energy Group reports "some 40 companies have expressed interest."
Israel -- A Mediterranean deep-water wildcat has tested flows of 11-30 mmcfgd from Pliocene sands in the Plesheth Basin.
Also, three blocks offshore have reportedly been granted to British Gas for reconnaissance, with first right of refusal to permit after 18 months of study.
Yemen -- Western Geophysical is planning forums in the fall for five onshore and two offshore blocks.
Kazakhstan -- Some 103,000 square kilometers have been subdivided into a North Sea-type grid to be opened for a licensing round later this year.
Russia -- The Barents Sea international round deadline was pushed back at industry request, with studies due in September and winners announced later that month. The area includes two tracts. Another onshore tract is available only to Russian companies.
The bidding process also is under way for seven Eastern Siberia blocks west of the large Kovyktinskoye gas field.
Turkmenistan -- Out-of-round international tenders continues for two onshore and seven offshore blocks. A competitive bid regime is expected to be announced this fall for six offshore Caspian blocks.