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Congo to see production rise from Eni discovery

Eni says the Nene' Marine field holds around 600 million barrels of oil and 20 billion cubic metres (cm) of gas

A large oil and gas discovery by Eni should give a substantial boost to Congo (Brazzaville)'s oil production and has the potential to revitalise exploration work. Eni said its Nene' Marine field, in shallow water close to the shore, holds 600 million barrels of oil and 20 billion cubic metres (cm) of gas.

Eni has drilled two wells, 2 km apart, at the discovery and has tested wet gas and light 37°API crude "at commercial rates". The structure has "considerable additional upside", Eni says, and a development project will benefit from the field lying in just 24 metres of water, 17 km off the coast. Development studies have started, while delineation drilling continues.

Nene' Marine lies in the Marine XII licence, held by Eni with 65%, NewAge with 25% and the state's Société nationale des pétroles du Congo with 10%. NewAge, also known as African Global Energy, is an exploration company set up by Steve Lowden, a former Marathon executive, in which the largest shareholder is the Kerogen private-equity fund.

Development of the discovery should give a lift to Congo's 300,000 barrel a day (b/d) oil production and could provide the stimulus for greater utilisation of the country's considerable gas deposits. A production decline had set in in 2000 but has now been reversed following the start-up of the country's first deep-water field - Total's Moho-Bilondo. Output from Moho-Bilondo built up to 90,000 b/d in 2010, although the field has now moved off-peak.

But in March, Total launched two further developments near Moho-Bilondo - Phase 1b, tying-in additional reserves to the existing floating production unit (FPU), and Moho Nord, which will see a new FPU and a tension-leg platform installed to the north. The two projects, targeted for start-up in 2015 and 2016 respectively, are due to flow a combined 140,000 b/d in 2017.

Further new production will come from an offshore area shared between Congo and its southern neighbour, Angola-administered Cabinda. The two countries have agreed to a 50:50 split of output from a 696 square km joint development zone, in which Chevron is developing the Lianzi field. Lianzi is due on stream in 2015 and should flow 46,000 b/d of oil-equivalent.

Although Congo's older fields are now in decline, production from the developments in progress seems set to raise output significantly above 300,000 b/d within a few years. Eni's discovery could be flowing relatively quickly - perhaps by 2016 - in view of its location and water-depth, to add a further substantial volume.

The gas in Eni's find could provide the bonus of increasing the utilisation of gas already discovered, if it leads to infrastructure being extended. The volume of gas marketed - 1.4bn cm in 2011, according to the US Energy Information Administration - amounts to only 15% of the volume produced, with the remainder being reinjected or flared. The volume utilised has been increasing, following the start-up of new gas-fired generating capacity in recent years, but Congo remains an importer of electricity and much of the country does not have access to it.

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