Future potential: how Mauritania and Senegal are set to become new players in natural gas supply

Last edited: 8 May 2017

It’s not every day that a brand new global supply of energy is unlocked. But that is what BP, in partnership with Kosmos Energy, is striving to achieve with a project to bring newly discovered natural gas resources off the coast of Mauritania and Senegal onto the world market. Following the announcement of a major offshore gas find, BP Magazine talks to regional president Emma Delaney about setting up operations

Mauritania and Senegal represent a new region for BP. What is involved in starting a business from scratch?

Most of all stamina! The key thing is to quickly understand the business context and then to establish strong relationships with partners and the governments, helping people understand who we are and how we work. It’s important to have clear objectives across all the areas, from establishing in-country presence, to developing resources and delivering associated economic benefits.

You are working in partnership with Kosmos Energy. How did that come about?

Kosmos is a great explorer and in 2015 they made significant discoveries in Mauritania and Senegal -  the largest of which was the Tortue field, around 15 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of gas in high quality reservoirs. And there’s more to come; with four exploration wells drilling in 2017, we’re excited about future potential. 

To give you a feel for the scale of opportunity, we think there is the potential for up to 50 tcf of gas – that’s equivalent to all of Africa’s current gas production for nearly seven years. So it’s big – big enough for 30 to 50 years of production.

For Kosmos, it was time to ask - ‘Do we keep doing what we are doing, stick to our knitting as a great explorer, or do we try and branch out and do the development ourselves?’ And they went down the road of, ‘Let’s find a really good partner to do the development’, which is where BP comes in. There is a real gelling of ideas and culture between the two companies, and the timing is right for both of us, key ingredients to a successful partnership.

Our explorers and commercial teams are always on the lookout for opportunities to refresh the portfolio. The Kosmos opportunity was interesting and a great fit for our business.

Kosmos ran a ‘farm-out’ process, which is very typical in the industry, where they shared their data for a variety of companies to go in and understand what the basin looks like. Our explorers were excited by what they saw. Together with the development engineers and the commercial teams, we got to a place where we thought this would be a valuable opportunity for BP and put in an offer that was ultimately successful. 

How are you dividing responsibilities between the two companies?

Kosmos will lead on exploration activity and BP will bring development expertise for the Tortue project and subsequent developments. Each partner brings something specific to the table. 

It’s up to BP to understand the development concept and engineering, the subsequent execution, and ultimately the operation of the business. And, we can draw on the expertise of a global organisation, not just in the technical functions, but in the non-technical areas also. In addition, we can bring the full value chain together with our experience in LNG sales and marketing.
"We’re planning a development that will last for half a century, one that the generation of young engineers who are starting in their careers now will have a chance to work on and see evolve."
Emma Delaney, regional president, Mauritania and Senegal

Kosmos are a great partner for this geography given their knowledge of Africa and established relationships in-country, which means there is continuity for all stakeholders as we embark on the appraisal and development phase. It’s a highly complementary partnership, and we are working really closely together.

What are the next steps for BP?

For Exploration, the next step is to find more resources. We've just announced a major gas discovery offshore Senegal, with the Yakaar-1 exploration well drilled to a total depth of around 4,700 metres. And, there are three more exploration wells to drill in the next 12 months. 

For Tortue, we plan to do a drill stem test this year, which will tell us more about the productive capacity of the reservoir, informing our development strategy for the field. 2017 and 2018 are the thinking and planning years for the engineering and design of the first phase of the project before we get into physical construction activity. Plans are for a nearshore floating LNG development on the maritime border between the two countries.

In parallel, we’ll continue to build relationships in country, supporting both exploration and development activity. For example, in April, BP agreed to deepen its investment in Senegal by acquiring the full 30% minority participating interests that Timis Corporation holds in two offshore blocks in Saint-Louis, Profond and Cayar Profond, subject to government approval.

We’re planning a development that will last for half a century, one that the generation of young engineers who are starting in their careers now will have a chance to work on and see evolve.

What challenges will need to be overcome?

I think the pace is challenging because we are aiming for first gas in 2021.

As this is a new region for BP, setting up the BP brand needs to be considered in the context of the different countries. There is continuity though, with Kosmos already established with local offices and teams on the ground, and we will absolutely build on what they have achieved.

A big part of the near and medium term will be building understanding and then capacity within the oil and gas sector. We are very mindful of the long term nature of the investments we’re considering today. 

In addition, we need to work with key players in the government and other stakeholders in both countries, and demonstrate that developing these resources will make a positive contribution to society.

What are you most proud of?

It has been very rewarding to see the BP team come together over the last few months. We have had a very warm reception in both places, which has been fantastic. It really does make me feel very positive that by working hard we will deliver on our commitments.

What’s the 10 year vision?

I think, first and foremost, it’s to establish both countries as exporters and as players in the industry; I think that would be a success. We want to develop this project in a responsible manner, and have something that we can look back on ten years after start-up and see that it has brought prosperity and development, and been positive for the countries and the communities local to the developments.

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