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COLUMN-Uruguay’s offshore draws oil and gas prospectors: Kemp | Reuters

Energy Information Administration (EIA). It imports

nearly all the crude used in its lone refinery at Montevideo as

well as refined products.

Fields are generally discovered one to three years after the

start of detailed geological and geophysical exploration.

Development and the start of production generally occur five to

11 years after discovery.

NO OIL BEFORE 2020

The exploration companies are committed to conducting

seismic and/or electromagnetic surveys between Q4 2012 and 2014.

Huge oil deposits have already been discovered in the

pre-salt formations of the Campos and Santos basins off Brazil.

Total described the bidding round as “very competitive”. Greater thickness improves the chances that

hydrocarbons will be found in significant quantities.

It is far from certain any of the blocks will yield

commercial discoveries. It

has undertaken to start 3D seismic surveying before the end of

the year and to drill its first well in 2014.

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It is this massive hydrocarbon potential that makes the area

attractive to prospectors such as BG, BP and Total.

LONDON Nov 15 Four of the world’s most

successful oil and gas exploration companies last month signed

contracts to invest more than $1.5 billion over the next three

years in prospecting for fossil fuels off the coast of Uruguay,

betting that geological conditions which produced deposits off

the West African coast are replicated on Uruguay’s continental

shelf.

Exploration in the string of giant sedimentary basins along

the West African coast (Niger Delta, Cameroon, Gabon, Congo,

Kwanza, Mocamedes, Walvis and Orange River) has resulted in

series of major oil and gas discoveries.

The programme includes drilling an ultra-deep water

exploration well, 33,000 square kilometres of three-dimensional

seismic surveys and 13,000 square kilometres of electromagnetic

surveys, according to the government.

It adds to the enormous amount of exploration and

development activity taking place, mostly away from the Middle

East and much of it Africa and the Americas, which is gradually

shifting the geographical balance in the oil market.

By John Kemp

Offshore license areas:

It is a strategy Total calls “the mirror concept”.

BP exploration case:

During the licensing round, ANCAP’s geologists also

highlighted the thickness of many of the pre-rifting layers,

laid down in the same environment as the basins off West Africa,

before the two continents were separated.

BG Group exploration:

Explorers are betting that the matching basins off the east

coast of Latin America (Bahia Sul, Espirito Santo, Campos,

Santos, Pelotas, Oriental del Plata, Punta del Este, Colorado

and Malvinas/Falkland) have a similar geological structure and

contain an equally attractive amount of hydrocarbons.

Potential is not the same as finding suitable structures

that have trapped oil or gas in big enough quantities to make it

worth drilling costly offshore wells in deep water to extract

them.

Previous exploration in the 1970s and 1980s, including

12,000 kilometres of two-dimensional seismic survey lines,

failed to produce commercial discoveries. 5, Uruguay’s state petroleum company ANCAP

signed exploration agreements for eight offshore blocks with BG

Group (3 blocks), BP (3 blocks), Total

(1 block) and Tullow (1 block) that committed the

companies to an expensive surveying programme.[ID: nL2E8EU7U2]. Even if they do, the first oil or gas

production is likely to be five to 10 years away.

Sandwiched between hydrocarbon giants Brazil and Argentina,

Uruguay produces just 900 barrels of oil per day, according to

the U.S. The

post-rifting sedimentary layers have a total thickness of

2,500-4,500 metres. But the companies are

hoping improvements in surveying will enable them to locate

large deposits of oil and gas in 500-2,000 metres of water off

the Atlantic coast.

Bidding process:

But on Oct.

Total exploration case:

Offshore geology:

HYDROCARBON POTENTIAL

“MIRROR CONCEPT”

Until the two continents were forced apart by a rift down

the centre of what became the Atlantic Ocean, Latin America’s

east coast was joined to the west coast of Africa.

They have the greatest similarity to offshore areas of

Nigeria and Angola, such as the Bonga, Nnwa Doro and Dalia oil

fields, where large volumes of oil have been found.

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Uruguay Round II:

Pre-rift sedimentary layers include thick shales deposited

on the floors of ancient seas and lakes, similar to those off

West Africa or the coast of Brazil, with a high organic content:

ideal for generating oil and gas.

Nonetheless, the search in the deepwater off the coast of

Uruguay is another example of how high oil prices have provided

the major international companies with both the cash and the

incentive to go hunting on new frontiers.

PRESENTATIONS:

So even if Uruguay’s offshore basins contain commercial

volumes of oil and/or gas, and that is a big if, production is

unlikely to start before 2020.

The sedimentary basins to the south, off Uruguay, also

appear to have strong oil- and gas-producing potential

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