Deepwater Confab Draws 800 to Nigeria

American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG)

Four of the five past AAPG Africa Region presidents joined current Region President Nosa Omorodion in Abuja, Nigeria, for the third Regional Deepwater Offshore West Africa Conference (DOWAC).

About 800 participants from all over the world attended the meeting, with good reason: West Africa continues to be an oil and gas hotspot within the world’s “golden triangle” for deepwater oil exploration and development – comprising the deepwater Gulf of Mexico, Brazil and West Africa.

AAPG was represented by Vice President-Regions Alfredo Guzmán, in addition to Omorodion and the past Region presidents.

As a backdrop to the DOWAC conference, Nigeria celebrated its Golden Jubilee 50th anniversary of independence. Giant banners commemorating the October 1 event were hanging from the headquarters building of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation in Abuja.

Earlier in the year, President Goodluck Jonathan signed into law the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry Content Development Act. The law is expected to increase participation by Nigerians in the oil and gas industry through the required use of local raw materials, products and services, with the goal of increasing local capacity, industry knowledge and expertise.

The evolution of industry reforms and the future of investment in Nigeria was the theme of the conference Management Session.

Diminished production from now-mature onshore and shallow water areas of the Niger Delta has led to a shift in focus to Nigeria’s deepwater offshore potential. January 2010 estimates placed proven oil reserves at 37.5 billion barrels.

Management Session panelists represented government, IOCs, service companies, the national oil company and indigenous companies, as well as AAPG. Panelists agreed that development and production of Nigeria and West African oil potential would require significant investment in capital, technology, human resources and a favorable investment climate.

Market price stability contributes to a favorable investment environment. And according to Amal Alawami, the All Convention Luncheon guest speaker, OPEC continually strives to support global market stability.

As OPEC’s upstream industry analyst, Alawami emphasized the dual impact on market stability of both “supply security” and “demand security.” With improved technology, plentiful petroleum reserves have become available. But demand security also is required to ensure the long-term capital investment needed to develop the world’s deepwater reserves.

Alawami also reminded the audience that extreme market price volatility is damaging to producers as well as consumers. In fact, OPEC, the International Energy Agency and the International Energy Foundation are collaborating to better understand how investment speculation drives market volatility by studying the interaction between energy financial markets and the physical energy market.

She pointed out the recent gradual return to industry optimism resulted from massive capital investment worldwide. Considering the fragility of this global economic recovery, OPEC is carefully considering its actions in the months ahead – and Alawami encouraged other world government leaders to do the same.

DOWAC organizers envisioned a conference that sharpened focus on the deepwater potential of host country Nigeria, including deepwater West Africa activity from offshore Morocco down to Angola, plus other global case studies featuring the deepwater discoveries and challenges in West Africa, the Gulf of Mexico and offshore Brazil.

One session, for example, featured technology advances and innovations and included case studies in reservoir evaluation challenges from the deepwater Gulf of Mexico.

And a lot of attention, of course, was on African activity.

For example, since Ghana’s Jubilee Field discovery by Tullow Oil of UK in June 2007, industry players and the Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) flowed first oil from the country in mid-December. The Jubilee Field is believed to hold some 1.8 billion barrels of light, sweet crude oil reserves.

In September, Tullow made a second light oil field discovery in the Tano Basin, Gulf of Guinea, estimated to hold between 70 million and 550 million barrels. Tullow has a 50 percent interest and operates with several IOCs and GNPC.

Prior to this discovery, Ghana’s economy was fueled by mining for diamonds and gold. Ghana now faces the same two challenges heard throughout the third DOWAC – industry regulation and human resource development.

Other conference highlights included:

On the industry regulation side, Alexandra Amoako-Mensah explained that Ghana’s Minerals Commission has streamlined the licensing process. Amoako-Mensah, honorary general co-chair of DOWAC 2010, is current president of the Ghana Institution of Geoscientists and an eight-year board member of Ghana Minerals Commission.

On the human resource development side, GNPC is partnering with Ghana’s universities to increase the number of graduates and skilled workforce needed to support Ghana’s booming oil industry.

AAPG Africa Region and sponsor Niger Delta E&P did its part to prepare the future work force during the very first “AAPG/NDEP Mentor Minutes,” where senior industry leaders and role models shared their career experiences and choices with young industry professionals and students.

AAPG mentors Guzmán and Bayo Akinpelu provided coaching in professional ethics and career strategies.

During a breakfast meeting hosted by NAPE’s University/Polytechnic Assistance Program, attended by nearly 100 students attending DOWAC, Guzmán discussed the importance of professional association membership to enhance career development, as well as AAPG’s various programs to support AAPG student chapters and universities, such as IBA, Weeks Undergraduate Grants, AAPG Foundation Grants-in-Aid, Publications Pipeline university book donations, and Visiting Geoscientist Program.

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