SAPETRO : West Africa’s Exploration Giants

Editorial Team
Editorial Team

The West Africa region is rich with resources and an area where mining activity is guaranteed to have a bright future. In line with this, exploration and production companies operating here, such as the indigenous South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO) have witnessed an increase in oil & gas activity in recent years.


Since establishing in 1995, the Company has been taking some of the biggest risks in the industry in searching for new oil fields, while seeking to create value in the pursuit of rewarding exploration throughout the value chain.

With a balanced portfolio of six assets in five countries spanning the full cycle of exploration and production, the privately held Nigerian oil & gas company, SAPETRO is rapidly growing its operations in Nigeria, the Republic of Benin, Madagascar and the French Overseas territories.

“With a net acreage position in excess of 74,890 square kilometres, SAPETRO is currently the second largest operated acreage holder in offshore East and Southern Africa and is well placed to play a leading role in one of the world’s major emerging hydrocarbon provinces,” said the Company, who added that its focus remains on continued strategic growth in Sub-Saharan Africa while building lasting and beneficial partnerships along the way.


Back in 1998 during Nigeria’s first bid round, SAPETRO was awarded the deepwater frontier acreage OPL 246. The Company entered into a partnership with Total and Petrobras to undertake a very successful exploration programme leading to the discovery of the 500mmbbl (million oil barrel) Akpo field, and the similar size Egina field. Post-discovery, the partnership was joined by CNOOC and the four parties jointly undertook the development of the Akpo field.

The Akpo field came on stream in 2009 and is now producing at a plateau rate of 175,000bbls a day. This year, the partnership also took a final investment decision to bring Egina field on stream by 2017. They’re predicting the Egina field will have a production rate of 200,000bbls (oil barrels) a day. Additionally, SAPETRO has continued to expand into new frontiers, laying claim to yet more lucrative territories.

“In 2004, we entered the Republic of Benin as an operator in our own right. At the Seme field here, we are the 100 percent owners of block 1, where we have concluded a successful appraisal programme and discovered oil,” stated the Company. “In 2011, we acquired very substantial acreage in the Mozambique Channel from Roc Oil where we undertook a 13,000 kilometre high-tech 2D seismic survey, which showed significant promise. In 2014, we began to undertake a 9,000km2 3D survey in the same area, and we’re very excited to see the potential results.”


What makes SAPETRO’s story so interesting isn’t just the highly successful ventures the company has already engaged in, it’s that these successes are happening in the hands of a truly indigenous African company.

The Company highlighted: “Our slogan is ‘Africa is our home’ and as a home-grown company, we understand how to do business in Africa and how to create and maintain value-add partnerships. We intend to continue creating value while looking for high impact opportunities to repeat this success in other African countries.”

Of course, this level of profitability for a home-grown exploration business presented its challenges along the way; none of which were too large for SAPETRO to overcome as the Company detailed: “When SAPETRO started out the biggest challenge was in building our technical capabilities from scratch. But there is a lot of talent in Nigeria which the company has been able to capture and develop. Our joint venture has faced and overcome the challenges of successful deepwater development in Nigeria while maximising the use of local content.

Not only this, but SAPETRO has been able to leverage its African expertise in order to obtain attractive exploration positions abroad, where the market is highly competitive.

Of course a large part of the reason the company’s ventures have been so successful is that SAPETRO is a company dedicated to building the best team it possibly can. To this end, the firm has an extensive and thorough recruitment process.

“We advertise all our positions in the national papers to ensure people from all over the country have a chance to apply but we also invite nominations from recruitment companies,” said the website. “So we always have a large pool to select from and take great care in the selection process to find the right calibre of candidates.”


Today, the hard work of SAPETRO is really starting to see some concrete results, as it comes to the end of what has been an extremely productive few years for the Company.

“The last two years have been extremely busy and presented many challenges, given West Africa’s Ebola crisis and fluctuating oil prices, but we have weathered the storm and emerged successful,” said the Company.

Similarly, SAPETRO has plans to steadily increase growth both inside and outside Nigeria’s borders as the Company concluded: “We are currently looking very seriously at IOC divestment opportunities and I think we will be able to put together some very credible and serious bids focusing on what we can do to build production for Nigeria and improve the lives of local communities while continuing to build our company. We are also going to continue to explore our concessions in the Mozambique Channel as well as looking for further high impact opportunities elsewhere on the continent.”

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