East Africa's 'massive gas discoveries will change energy equation for decades'

20161205 103309Kenya is a key epicentre of drilled petroleum exploration wells in East Africa (Source: Ministry of Energy and Petroleum Kenya/Luke Barras-Hill)At the Africa Energy and Technology (ECT) conference, oil and gas engineers, geologists, technicians and senior decision makers from public and private organisations gathered for the inaugural conference held 5-7 Dec at the Safari Park Hotel, Nairobi, Kenya

Hosted by The American Association of Petroleum Geologists (AAPG) and the Society of Petroleum Engineers (SPE), the event presented the opportunity for attendees to hear from 60 industry experts and network with more than 150 people to discuss evolving oil and gas developments on the continent. 

Opening the conference, David Blanchard, DB Global Energy Consultants noted that East Africa’s “massive gas discoveries will change the energy equation for decades to come”.

“East Africa has emerged on the global stage as a major energy province for companies large and small to explore and introduce hydrocarbons, so the venue for this conference is fittingly in Nairobi,” he said.

He reminded delegates that 85 per cent of the world’s energy needs are served by fossil fuels, but renewables are playing an increasing role.

Andrew N. Kamau, principal secretary, State Department for Petroleum Ministry of Energy and Petroleum Kenya then took to the stage.

Kamau praised the work of geologists in Kenya and described how conversations with their US counterparts have provided the impetus for technology innovations in oil welling. 

Kenya, he said, is a country rich in oil and large geothermal resources epitomised by the spectacular Rift Valley. 

These sentiments were echoed by Mary Jane Mwangi, Ag. CEO, National Oil Corporation Kenya (NOCK), who paid tribute to Kenya’s biodiversity and unique, varied heritage that makes it the perfect location to host the conference.

Nock said in its welcome message to delegates that the event marks a watershed in shining the spotlight on the energy profession in Africa.

“Kenya and East Africa has come of age with several oil and gas discoveries in the last few years,” Mwangi  said, with huge potential in wind, geothermal and hydropower. 

“The 21st Century truly belongs to Africa”, she added, pointing to maturing democracies,  rising GDPs, the emergence of middle class consumers, and an increased rate of consumer spending expected to surpass more than five per cent as factors contributing to the  transformation of Africa.

Next to the stage was the AAPG’s president Paul Britt, who acknowledged Africa’s  successful discoveries across gas and oil, both onshore and offshore, over the past few years.

Britt correlated this success against the backdrop of rising oil production (tb/d) encompassing Persian Gulf, non-OPEC and other producing nations between 1973-2016.

As the largest association of professional geologists, the AAPG comprises approximately 40,000 members, 905 of which are in Africa, in 129 countries in the upstream energy industry.

In drawing delegates’ attentions to advances in drilling and completion methods, seismic processing and borehole evaluations, Britt identified three future trends for geoscience: machine learning (a subset of A.I.), un-manned aircraft systems (drones) for close up evaluations, and nanotechnology. 

Machine learning includes new variables in techniques such as computerised mapping, but also the ability of machines to learn without the need for prior programming, methods  that have been applied to science and engineering disciplines for more than two decades. 

As the density of geological and engineering data increases, new applications will help to improve success rates while reducing costs, he continued.

Nanotechnology, he added, would contribute towards more effective drilling and completion techniques.

Janeen Judah of the SPE then raised the importance of belonging to a professional association such as SPE during a downturn to enhance technical knowledge sharing and exchange.

She told the audience that all forms of energy such as geothermal, solar and wind are needed, however, “There’s a tremendous need for power and energy and people want the same lives as we have in North America and Europe where they need fossil fuel: we’re not a dying industry yet,” she asserted.

She said Africa currently accounts for five per cent of its total membership.

Concluding the opening session was Bill Bosworth, Apache Egypt Companies and Gbenga Onadeko, Welltec Africa. 

Bosworth noted Africa’s “special place for extensional geotectonics” with Onadenko reminding delegates of the importance of the technical sessions at the conference. 

Watch out for further online coverage of the inaugural Africa Energy and Technology Conference.

Alain Charles Publishing, University House, 11-13 Lower Grosvenor Place, London, SW1W 0EX, UK
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