Witten By: DILIP KUMAR JHA

Global multinational companies have lined up millions of dollars in investment to initiate the exploration process at recently discovered oilfields with an estimated cumulative crude oil reserves of 11 billion barrels. Leading multinational companies, such as Chevron, ExxonMobil, Shell, ReconAfrica, and TotalEnergies, have evinced interest in crude oil exploration work in this tiny southern African nation. Other oil and gas supermajors including Galp, and QatarEnergy have already signed pacts, to begin with the exploration process.

According to the United Nations, Namibia has a total population of just 2.53 million, with a growth rate of only 2 percent. However, the country possesses massive crude oil reserves that surpass those of several members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). These multinational companies have already begun exploration work in some of Namibia’s neighbouring countries such as Angola, and aim to replicate the success achieved there. Namibia shares its western border with the Atlantic Ocean, while it borders Zambia and Angola to the north, and Botswana and South Africa to the east and southeast.

In addition to the 11 billion barrels of crude oil, 2.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas reserves have been discovered in Namibia’s coastal regions. This discovery is expected to address the country’s energy poverty and boost the economy. The Namibian government plans to commence oil production within four years, although the exploration process for these untapped oilfields has yet to begin. Therefore, the actual reserves will only be determined after an in-depth study, as stated by the Namibian government in a recent statement.

Chevron signs pact
In October last year, the United States supermajor Chevron signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with Sintara Energy, a Canadian oil and gas major, for a majority stake in the PEL 90 oil and gas field in the Orange Basin offshore Namibia. According to the MoU, Chevron’s subsidiary, Chevron Namibia Exploration, will hold an 80 percent stake in the license from Sintara Energy’s Namibian subsidiary, Trago Energy, which will retain a 10 percent share.

Under the agreement, Chevron will lead exploration activities, including 3D seismic studies and the drilling of an initial exploration well. The value of the investment was not disclosed. This deepwater asset lies in Block 2813B, located in the north of the TotalEnergies-operated Venus play, which reportedly, made a significant discovery in February last year. The California-headquartered oil and gas major, Chevron, is returning to Namibia after two decades.

Canadian companies on the move
Another Canada-based company, Eco Atlantic, has acquired the entire offshore asset portfolio of Azinam, an exploration and production (E&P) company in Namibia. This strategic move aims to strengthen Eco Atlantic’s presence in Namibia. With the country’s oil and gas market poised for a boom, Eco Atlantic is among dozens of companies seeking entry into the African country with to explore its vast reserves.

Expanding the horizons, a Canadian exploration company named ReconAfrica has signed an agreement with Namcor to increase its participating interest in the Kavango Basin within the Okavango Wilderness region of Namibia. As a result, ReconAfrica announced in April 2022 that it plans to drill three exploration wells, thereby expanding its investment in participation with foreign companies to enhance exploration and production activities.

Shell’s Graff-1 discovery
The National Petroleum Corporation of Namibia (Namcor), in partnership with Shell Namibia Upstream B.V. and Qatar Energy, made a significant discovery of light oil at the Graff-1 well offshore Namibia in February 2022. The Namibian government plans to expedite the project to enable production to commence at this site by 2026.

In July 2023, the UK-based supermajor Shell announced the presence of hydrocarbons in the fourth exploration well, Lesedi-1X, which it completed drilling offshore the African country. The company declared last month that it would continue its exploration efforts after making three discoveries in the Orange Basin offshore Namibia over the past two years. Both Shell and France’s TotalEnergies have recently made substantial discoveries in the Orange Basin offshore Namibia. In 2022, Shell and its partners made two discoveries in the same basin.

TotalEnergies’ Orange Basin Discovery
Shortly after Shell’s discovery, TotalEnergies announced a significant discovery of light oil with associated gas at the Venus prospect in block 2193B of the Orange Basin. This discovery highlights the potential of Namibia’s frontier basins and is expected to usher in a new era of investment in the southern African nation.

According to a company statement, TotalEnergies’ Block 2913B covers approximately 8,215 square kilometers offshore Namibia. The French oil and gas supermajor operates this oilfield with a 40 percent working interest, while QatarEnergy holds 30 percent, and Impact Oil and Gas and Namcor each have a 20 percent and 10 percent stake, respectively, in this asset.

ExxonMobil acquires assets
The Texas-headquartered multinational oil and gas company ExxonMobil has signed an agreement with the government of Namibia and Namcor with the aim of expanding its exploration acreage in Namibia. This expansion includes approximately 28,000 square kilometers in blocks 1710 and 1810, as well as farm-in agreements with Namcor for blocks 1711 and 1811A. These blocks extend from the shoreline around 215 kilometers offshore Namibia, reaching water depths up to 4,000 meters.

In operating blocks of 1710 and 1811A, ExxonMobil holds a 90 percent interest, while Namcor retains the remaining 10 percent. The US major has decided to allocate 5 percent of its interest to a local Namibian company. Furthermore, the company has chosen to operate blocks 1711 and 1811A, maintaining an 85 percent interest, while Namcor will retain the remaining share. Additionally, ExxonMobil holds a 40 percent interest in the PEL 82 license offshore Namibia, covering approximately 11,500 square kilometers of hydrocarbon assets.

Conclusion
An influx of foreign direct investments has added Namibia to commencing the exploration of its oil and gas potential. As numerous multinational companies revise their strategies to broaden the scope of exploration and processing, Namibia is poised to emerge as a prominent oil and gas destination in years to come.

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