In the hunt for black gold, one of the most intriguing and prospective regions these days is is offshore Ghana. A series of recent discoveries looks likely to turn the west African nation’s biggest export into crude oil, elbowing aside Freddy Adu.
It’s the type of high-risk, deep-water exploration play that once favored oil majors with their deep pockets and deep benches of managers and experienced engineers. But the companies hitting gushers there are mid-caps such as Tullow Oil PLC and Anadarko Petroleum Corp. They are partners in the Jubilee field, one of the most eye-popping new discoveries of recent years.
A similar situation is unfolding in Brazil’s Santos Basin, home to Tupi, one of the biggest oil finds in a generation. You won’t find BP PLC or Royal Dutch Shell PLC there – although Exxon Mobil Corp. is drilling a highly anticipated prospect. For the most part, the work is by national company Petroleo Brasileiro SA and a clutch of smallish players like Repsol-YPF SA, Hess Corp. and the microscopic Portuguese firm Galp Energia SGPS SA.
For Anadarko, Jubilee is just the start. “It’s established a potential trend for us, a resource play we can pursue in other countries,” says CEO Jim Hackett in an interview. The company has already hit pay dirt in the area just outside Jubilee, acquired exploration acreage in Liberia and is testing waters off the coast of Sierra Leone this year.
Fields like Jubilee have helped Anadarko become one of the fastest-growing independents. Between 2005 and last year it doubled its resource base, adding 1 billion barrels last year alone. This year it’s focusing on three mega oil projects that will eat up 20% of its capex of about $4.5 billion – a field in Algeria, one in the Gulf of Mexico, and Jubilee.