Top African Countries to Lead Onshore Drilling in 2023

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Driven by efforts by African oil and gas producers to accelerate the exploitation and monetization of their vast hydrocarbon resources, Africa is emerging as a hive for onshore drilling campaigns for global majors, independents and local explorers alike in 2023 and beyond – according the African Energy Chamber (AEC)’s The State of the African Energy: 2023 Outlook.

In part, operators are diversifying their portfolios across Africa’s hydrocarbon-rich basins, with onshore drilling remaining less costly yet offering significant growth opportunities for junior and independent explorers seeking to expand their operations. 

Both greenfield and brownfield investments will drive Africa’s onshore oil and gas drilling market in 2023, with East and North African markets particularly set to dominate the upstream space.

Uganda

Mainly driven by greenfield projects, Uganda is set to lead onshore drilling plans, with projects such as the Kingfisher Conventional Oil and Tilenga Developments shaping the country’s wider upstream landscape. Last May, TotalEnergies selected oilfield services provider Schlumberger for the provision of drilling services for its $10-billion Tilenga project, starting in the fourth quarter of 2022. Chinese oilfield services firm Zhongyuan Petroleum Exploration Bureau also announced the completion of a test for its 1501 rig for deployment in Tilenga.

Kenya

Ongoing exploration developments in the Lamu and South Lokichar basins in Kenya by companies including Tullow Oil, TotalEnergies, Africa Oil Corporation and Eni are positioning the East African nation among the major drivers of onshore drilling in 2023. With large-scale investment of up to $3.4 billion required to develop the South Lokichar project, TotalEnergies, Africa Oil Corporation and Tullow Oil have reworked the project’s development plan and are seeking additional investment and development partners, with talks underway with India’s ONGC Videsh to fast-track implementation of the project.

Algeria

Following significant oil and gas discoveries made onshore by national oil company Sonatrach in the Illizi, Bechar and Berkine North basins earlier this year, Algeria is maximizing its onshore exploration investments, with several projects set to materialize in 2023. A Production Sharing Contract signed by Sonatrach, Eni, Oxy and TotalEnergies for Blocks 404 and 208 – as well as a move made by the Turkish and Algerian Governments to form a new joint oil and gas exploration company – will drive investments in onshore drilling activities across the North African country, as it seeks to increase energy reserves and output.

Libya

With International Oil Companies like Repsol expanding their exploration activities in-country, Sarir Oil Operations Company seeking drilling rigs for new onshore exploration of the Sirte Basin, and Libya’s National Oil Corporation ramping up exploration activities in 2023, the North African producer is well positioned to boost its national reserves and production capacity. Meanwhile, factors including the COVID-19 pandemic, natural declines in legacy projects and energy transition-related policies have disrupted Libya’s upstream activities, resulting in slumps in oil output. The country’s onshore basins – which remain largely untapped – present massive opportunities for Libya to boost its output and monetize its natural resources. With the demand for natural gas rising rapidly across the globe, Libya’s onshore basins have the unique potential to alleviate the current energy crisis in neighboring European countries.

Chad

With Chad seeking to unlock the full potential of its hydrocarbon resources, the country’s brownfield investments in 2023 will target increasing domestic reserves and output, placing the country among Africa’s largest spenders in onshore drilling, according to the AEC. While domestic production has declined from 109,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) in 2021 to 68,000 bopd in 2022, onshore drilling activities in the Doba Basin by companies like Savannah Energy, Petronas are expected to drive the country’s upstream revival. The government is also targeting increased use of the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline to maximize monetization of its resources and ensure regional energy security. Read here to find out more on Africa’s 2023 onshore drilling activities.

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Nicholas Nhede

Nicholas Nhede

Nicholas is an energy sector journalist with a passion on how technology and diversification of the energy mix can be used to address energy sector challenges. Nicholas holds a diploma in Journalism and Communication studies and has been covering energy-related topics including the Internet of Things, distributed energy and digitalisation since 2015.

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