With both oil and gas recording high prices globally, there seems to be little sign that the stampede for fresh fields will taper off. However, within the continent itself, the relative position of the key players appears to be changing with Angola now poised to challenge Nigeria as the continent's foremost producer of oil. Angola's gas ambitions are also growing. In this Special Report, Neil Ford focuses on the current dynamics ruling Africa's oil and gas sectors while Tom Nevin describes the fierce contest as two of the world's nuclear facility giants battle over South Africa.
While the Gulf of Guinea as a whole is still expected to become an increasingly important source of oil supplies over the next few years, there is no doubt that the fortunes of its major producers have taken very different turns.
While Angola has leapt quickly from production of 1m barrels a day (b/d) to almost 2m b/d within three years, Nigeria is struggling to make progress beyond the 2.6m b/d average recorded before the outbreak of more widespread hostilities in the Niger Delta.
As a result of the activities of insurgents in the Delta, the Nigerian government has based its annual budget on average oil production of just 2.45m b/d. While it is always prudent to allow some leeway for problems, this level of output would mark a significant decline on recent figures.
Nigeria's biggest oil producer, Shell Development Company of Nigeria (SPDC), still has 200,000 b/d of production shut in--or suspended--in the west of the Delta and it has declared a force majeure on its operations in the area, protecting it from legal action if it fails to accord with the terms of its licensing agreement. Total active Nigerian production capacity in February was estimated at 600,000 b/d under capacity.
Abuja has already announced that it will not be holding a licensing round this year, although with so much acreage licensed in recent years this should not have a great impact on the pace at which new production capacity is brought on stream.
There also appears to have been a change of position on the size of Nigeria's proven oil reserves. In 2006, former minister of energy Edmund Daukoru said that proven reserves had reached 35bn barrels, indicating that the country was well on its way to achieving the government's target of 40bn by 2010.
However, the director of the department of petroleum resources (DPR), Tony Chukwueke, said in January that the figure...