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Africa news roundup

Recent weeks have seen Shell scale up oil production off the coast of Nigeria, Circle Oil find gas at an exploration well in Morocco, and Uganda and Tanzania agree to study the possibility of developing a new oil pipeline.

Shell ramps up Nigerian offshore oil production

Shell has launched the third phase of its Bonga oil field as it steps up offshore production in Nigeria.

Bloomberg, citing an emailed statement from the oil giant, said the new phase boasts peak production capacity of about 50,000 barrels of oil equivalent. It is served by a floating production and storage facility with a capacity of more than 200,000 barrels of oil and four million standard cubic metres of natural gas a day.

Despite deferring riskier exploration work as a result of falling oil prices, Shell is pushing forward with projects that are close to production, such as Bonga phase three.

Shell holds a 55 per cent stake in Bonga and operates what it describes as the first deposits developed in Nigeria's deep waters back in 2005. A fifth of the field is held by Exxonmobil, while units of Total and Agip each hold 12.5 per cent.

Circle Oil finds gas at Morocco's Ksiri exploration well

North Africa-focused energy company Central Oil says it has enjoyed significant success with early exploration work at shale basins in Morocco.

The preliminary results from its Sebou concessions yielded approximately 227,000 cubic metres of natural gas per day, leading chief executive Mitch Flegg to declare they were at the "upper end" of its expected range.

"The well will now be tied into our existing infrastructure and put into production as soon as possible," he said. 

"This gas will be sold at fixed rates which are not subject to oil price fluctuations."

Morocco holds an estimated 566 billion cubic metres of recoverable oil and natural gas reserves in its onshore shale basins.

Uganda and Tanzania to explore oil pipeline potential

Uganda and Tanzania have struck a deal to explore the potential of building an oil pipeline between the two countries.

As a landlocked nation, Uganda is eager to run a pipeline to Africa's east coast in order to secure the lowest possible cost for shipping its crude reserves, which are estimated at 6.5 billion barrels.

President Yoweri Museveni indicated in August that Uganda had picked a route through Kenya for its oil, but last month the country revealed it was also considering a pipeline through Tanzania.

Security concerns have been raised in relation to the proposed Kenyan route, which runs through an area close to the Somali border where security is poor.

In a statement, Uganda's energy ministry explained: "As a country, we are evaluating the routes with the idea that we have the least-cost route. We would like to ensure that our crude oil has value."

Uganda 'right not to rush oil production'

Uganda made the correct decision in choosing to take its time over entering commercial oil production, according to Dr Steve Manteaw, the co-chairperson of Ghana's Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative.

The country's first commercially viable oil deposits were discovered nearly a decade ago, but the wait is still on for production of its first barrel of oil - much to the frustration of energy companies with a presence in Uganda.

However, Dr Manteaw - who is also a member of the World Bank's Extractive Industries Advisory Group - has praised the time taken to develop the nation's governance instruments, reports New Vision.

Noting that Uganda discovered oil before Ghana, he added: "The fact that Uganda is taking its time to sort these things out is good. We [rushed oil production], and Ghana has learnt a lot of lessons along the way."

Egypt grants four offshore exploration licences

Egypt has handed out four new licences to explore for oil and gas off its northern coast.

EGAS, the North African country's state gas company, said it has awarded one licence to BP and another to Italy-based Edison. The remaining two licences were dished out to a consortium comprising BP and Eni's Egyptian subsidiary, and a separate group involving Eni, BP and Total.

Khaled Abdel Badie, chairman of EGAS, told Reuters in the wake of the announcement that Egypt is gearing up for the launch of a new offshore gas exploration bidding round in the Mediterranean in the first half of 2016.

The news comes just a matter of weeks after Eni revealed it had discovered the largest known gas field in the Mediterranean, Zohr, off the coast of Egypt.

Zohr is thought to hold as much as 850 billion cubic metres of gas and could be an economic game-changer for Egypt, which has struggled to attract investment from energy companies on account of its sizeable national debt.

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