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Upstream

The Upstream Sector

 

The Gambian petroleum sector is segmented into upstream and downstream involving activities from the exploration and production stage to transportation and storage and marketing. Upstream petroleum matters essentially refer to petroleum exploration, development and production activities. As it stands now the country is at an exploration stage whereby international oil companies are invited to sign exploration and production licenses with the Government.

The Gambia lies entirely within the geological boundaries of the largest West African Passive Continental Margin basin called the MSGBC Basin i.e. the Mauritania, Senegal, Gambia, Guinea Bissau and Guinea Conakry Basin, which is proven to be prolific in oil and gas accumulations. Exploration activities (which include seismic, gravity, magnetic and limited exploration well drilling programs) carried in the past, in both offshore and onshore, identified significant oil and gas prospects particularly in the offshore area. These surveys were done through multi-client Agreements signed between MOP and international oil companies, and together with the exploration wells mentioned earlier have provided the preliminary data base for further geological and geophysical studies in future exploration programs.

Numerous exploratory surveys have been conducted since the late 1950s through the 1980s and 1990s in both offshore and onshore, but it was only from the 1990s through 2003 and 2010 when high quality 3D and 2D seismic data was acquired. The 3D seismic data was generated within more than 2,500 km2 area, and the 2D seismic data within an area of 4,700 km2. In the onshore area Petro-Canada carried out 330 km of 2D seismic programming 1991, and this is the only modern seismic data available on the onshore.

 

From the acquired data and information the Gambian territory was divided into “Blocks”. The offshore area has been divided into 6 Blocks and the onshore area into two Blocks. Of the off shore Blocks 4 are already licensed but the 2 onshore blocks are still open acreages. In some of the Blocks (Blocks A1 and A4 for example,) the studies identified many prospects, and now all efforts are being made to drill the exploration well by 2016.

 

Given the above therefore, the main challenges and threats faced by the upstream sector can be summarized below as emanating from:

 

  • the global petroleum price meltdown which is affecting the petroleum industry, especially the upstream; the low price is creating a cut-down in exploration activities globally, and consequently will potentially affect Gambia as well

 

  • lack of modern geophysical data to enhance determination of oil and gas prospectivity and licensing of the onshore area

 

  • the expensive and sensitive nature of onshore petroleum exploration and production activities due to health, safety, environmental and social issues associated with the activities
  • human and institutional capacity constraints in the MOP

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