The Next Great Oil Frontier

Offshore Nambia is quickly becoming one of the world’s greatest frontier oil provinces.

Back in the 1960s and 1970s, a few major companies took out oil exploration concessions there from the government of South Africa. In 1974, Shell discovered a gas field off the southwest coast with the Kudu project. Early estimates were 1 trillion cubic feet of reserves, but current estimates range up to 10 trillion. Kudu was big, but nobody much cared about natural gas back then. Gas was too cheap, and southern Africa was too far away.

There was hardly any development around Kudu for the next 20 years. South Africa was under international sanctions due to its apartheid regime, so oil companies and other outside investment stayed away. Almost nothing happened with energy development until Namibia became independent in 1990.

By the early 1990s, the gas field at Kudu intrigued foreign oil companies. Kudu showed a large hydrocarbon resource. Clearly, there was significant potential. But nobody really understood the offshore geology. Plus, back then, it was tough to drill in water more than about 1,500 feet deep. Namibia didn’t make for an investment magnet.

But with the recent success of offshore Brazil, the energy exploration expectations of the world have been fundamentally altered. The same brilliant researchers and scientists that discovered the potential of Brazil’s Tupi field are now doing extensive research in offshore West Africa, in particular offshore Namibia. One researcher I’ve been following very closely believes the offshore areas of Namibia are ‘geologic analogues’ to Brazil.