In 2013 the next ‘elephant’ oil discoveries are likely to be unearthed in four hot-spots, according to analysts at European bank Exane BNP Paribas.
Analyst Alejandro Demichelis reckons three of these will be in Africa. He points to Kenya, Mauritania and Gabon as the hot-spots.
Beyond Africa he also highlighted Guyane as another key frontier destination for exploration.
“Recent exploration efforts have only scratched the surface of these areas and we feel their full potential remains underappreciated,” the analyst said in a note today.
“The significant de-risking that has already taken place in Kenya and the Guyanas looks underestimated by the market. Mauritania and Gabon are the true wildcards.”
Tullow (LON:TLW) last year struck Kenya’s first significant oil find in the Ngamia well, which fuelled industry interest in the East African country’s oil potential .
Tullow now plans to prioritise Kenya among its extensive 40 well programme.
And the FTSE 100 constituent is also among the consortium of firms exploring the South American waters off French Guiana. It owns 27.5% of the high profile venture.
The other partners are the operator Shell (LON:RDSB, with 45%) and Total (NYSE:TOT, with 27.5%) – while AIM quoted Northern Petroleum (LON:NOP) and Wessex (LON:WSX) each have a 1.25% interest in the project.
In 2011, the Tullow-led Zaedyus exploration well made a breakthrough discovery which may have potentially opened up a whole new oil province; however, a disappointing follow-up well – drilled by Shell in December - has tempered investors' initial enthusiasm.
“We believe that it is important to view French Guiana as a campaign, and not just one well, in a frontier exploration province,” Demichelis said.
Indeed, he explains that the area presents a number of prospective fan systems and the exploration efforts so far have only ‘scratched the surface’ of the acreage.
Shell has now begun drilling the second of four planned wells in the current programme, and the results are expected in four to five months’ time.
Across the Atlantic, off Africa’s west coast, projects in Mauritania are targeting similar style reservoirs to those in Guyane and Tullow’s Jubilee field, offshore Ghana.
Demichelis says Mauritania is the real wildcat in the play. “Tullow has already secured a commanding acreage position and is set to drill up to three wells in the country in 2013.
“We note that Total has also been awarded deep-water exploration blocks in the country and the Tullow results could have an important read across. “
Morocco is another ‘wildcat’ region in this play, and it has been generating industry interest in recent months with the likes of Cairn and Genel buying into projects - while proven developers of African oil fields like Kosmos and Anadarko are also involved in project there.
Elsewhere, it will be an active and potentially breakthrough year of activity in Gabon, with Ophir (LON:ORPH) and Total among the main players.
“The deep-water pre-salt play could be a game changer for the industry given multi-billion barrel prospects that the industry is pursuing.
“First up are the Mango/Mango South prospects (Diaba block, Cobalt & Total) in H1 13 to be followed by Ophir/Petrobras’ Paddouck and the Northern Cluster prospects in H2 13.
“Ophir will also test the offshore post-salt play with the Affanga Deep-1 well targeting a Cretaceous feature in an attempt to extend the Ogooue Delta play to the deep-water.”