Imminent Exploration to Determine Pre-Salt Opportunity

The oil potential of some of the world's most promising acreage in 'pre-salt basins' is about to be determined courtesy of imminent exploration activity being undertaken by London-listed oil companies, said oil analysts at London-based Westhouse Securities.

The investment bank highlights imminent drilling from two junior oil explorers quoted on London's Alternative Investment Market – Chariot Oil & Gas and Max Petroleum – as being likely to help bring a focus on to pre-salt plays.

Chariot is drilling on its northern block 118A, targeting the Tapir South prospect offshore Namibia, and this is due to yield results at the end of May this year. Max Petroleum's Emba-B prospect in Western Kazakhstan is currently drilling ahead and is due to reach target depth in April 2012.

Westhouse's oil analyst team describes these as "important dates in the pre-salt calendar".

Pre-salt refers to a group of rocks located in the marine portions off most of the Brazilian coast and off some of the West African coast, as well as parts of Kazakhstan, that have potential for oil generation and accumulation.

These rocks are termed pre-salt because they stretch under an extensive layer of salt, which in some areas of the coast reaches thicknesses of up to 6,500 feet (2,000 meters). Over time, these rocks have been deposited before the layer of salt.

The total depth of these rocks, which is the distance between the sea surface and oil reservoirs beneath the salt layer, can reach more than 23,000 feet (7,000 meters).

The accumulation of hydrocarbons in the pre‐salt layer can be vast. According to Westhouse, it is estimated that the Tupi discovery in the Santos Basin offshore Brazil has estimated recoverable volumes between 5 to 8 billion barrels of oil equivalent. The Guara discovery, also in the Santos Basin, has volumes from 1.1 to 2 billion barrels of light oil and natural gas with gravity around 30 degree API.
Westhouse also highlighted the oil and gas sector's exposure to major pre-salt basins as:
  • Brazil (Santos and Campos Basins): BG Group, Petrobras and Statoil
  • Angola (Kwanza Basin): BP, Exxon, Total, Chevron, Maersk Gabon: Ophir Energy
  • Namibia: Chariot Oil & Gas, Tower Resources
  • Lower Congo: SOCO International
  • Kazakhstan: Max Petrol

A former engineer, Jon is an award-winning editor who has covered the technology, engineering and energy sectors since the mid-1990s. Email Jon at


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