Nested in the Gulf of Guinea, Gabon has built itself a reputation of environmental stewardship and sustainable development of its natural resources. The country of less than 2.5m notably hosts Africa’s largest forest elephant population and is covered at 88% by rainforest.
Despite being an established offshore hydrocarbons province, Gabon is steadily diversifying away from oil. A public-private partnership with ARISE IIP resulted in the establishment of one of Africa’s most modern and efficient free zones now serving a growing industrial and mining base.
The country is in fact one of the world’s top producers of manganese, of which it exported almost 4m tonnes in the first half of the year. Gabon has also successfully industrialised its wood industry to become a recognised exporter of timber: between January and June 2021, the country produced over 1 million m3 of logs.
Gabon’s economy remains fairly diversified compared to that of its African neighbours. Its oil & gas sector’s contribution to the GDP stood at 37.7% in 2020 and represented 33% of government revenues last year. Oil exports also accounted for 70% of total export revenues.
Maintaining the pace of investment in the country’s hydrocarbons value-chain remains a priority for the government, especially as it seeks to develop gas-based economies and use oil revenues to invest in sustainable infrastructure and the conservation of its environment.
A Focus on Reversing Production Decline
Gabon is member of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and produced an average of 183,000 barrels of oil per day (bopd) between January and September 2021. This makes it sub-Saharan Africa’s fourth largest producer, behind Nigeria, Angola and Congo-Brazzaville and more or less at par with Ghana.
Production has been in decline for several years and has stagnated in the recent past. Gabon launched its 12th Licensing Bid Round before Covid19, which it is just concluding now. The round generated relatively strong interest given market dynamics, and award letters started being issued this month with BW Energy provisionally securing two blocks along with partners Panoro Energy and VAALCO Energy.
The award of new exploration acreage is much needed in order to encourage seismic acquisition and exploratory drilling and ultimately maintain production in the medium-term. Exploration has so far been a miss this year, with BW Energy’s Hibiscus Extension appraisal well (DHIBM-2) encountering water in the first half of the year, and its Hibiscus North exploration well (DHBNM-1) failing to deliver on pre-drill resource estimate in July.
An Independents’ Market
Gabon is an independents and national oil companies (NOCs)’ game. Shell Gabon sold all its assets in the country to Assala Energy in November 2017, and Total Gabon sold seven of its non-operated mature fields and operatorship of the Cap Lopez Oil Terminal to Perenco in July 2020.
Beyond Assala Energy and Perenco, Gabon’s upstream sector is dominated by Maurel & Prom, VAALCO Energy and BW Energy along with a few NOCs such as Petronas. TotalEnergies remains the only IOC still operating upstream assets in the country.
Gabon continues to offer significant opportunities for independents, both onshore and offshore. In February 2021, Panoro Energy acquired Tullow Oil’s 10% working interest in BW Energy’s Dussafu Marin Permit.
A New Strategy to Monetise Domestic Gas
Gabon has been working for a few years on a new strategy to monetise gas to generate additional electricity and develop new gas-based industries. The move benefits from significant political will and support and is one of the key pillars of the country’s new three-year plan over the 2021-2023 period, dubbed Plan to Accelerate the Transformation (PAT).
Because Perenco represents most of the country’s operated gas production, it will play a major role in the development of Gabon’s domestic gas market. The company completed this year studies and plans for the new 10,000 metric tonnes Batanga LPG plant, where construction is expected to start before the end of the year. In July 2019, Gabon’s Ministry of Petroleum, Gas and Mines had also signed an agreement giving the Olowi Field to Perenco as its new operator. The field was developed between 2005 and 2018 by Canadian Natural Resources and is now to be redeveloped under an integrated gas project.
Finally, an expanding gas industry will benefit the power sector. Gabon already runs several gas-to-power facilities and in September 2021, the Gabon Power Company (GPC) signed a landmark Concession Agreement with Wärtsilä for the development, supply, construction, operation, and maintenance of a new 120 MW gas-to-power project in Owendo, next to the capital city of Libreville.
A Diversifying Energy Basket
Beyond gas, Gabon is also expanding its energy sector with the development of its solar and water resources. Several hydropower plants are currently being developed,
When it comes to hydroelectricity, Meridiam and the Gabon Power Company successfully reached financial close on the 35 MW Kinguélé Aval in July this year. Additional facilities include the 15 MW Dibwangui hydropower plant and the 73 MW Ngoulmendjim hydropower plants, whose power purchase agreements (PPA) were signed with Eranove in 2018.
Solar energy is also making its entry into the country’s grid with the signing last August of a contract with the Turkish group Desiba Energy for the construction of a 20 MW solar power plant in Doubou, in the province of Ngounié.
To find out about investment and business opportunities in Gabon, register for IN-VR’s Gabon Oil, Gas & Energy Summit hybrid conference taking place in Libreville and online between October 20th-22nd. More information at https://www.in-vr.co/gabon. All details on ongoing and future projects across Gabon’s energy sector are available within your Hawilti+ research terminal.