Esso Exploration Angola is the local affiliate of ExxonMobil for the Angolan market. How has the company evolved since its arrival 1994?
For 27 years, we have been a significant investor in Angola as the operator of Block 15 and joint venture partner in Blocks 17 and 32. We started with exploration and evolved over time. At one point we had 5 active FPSOs and produced more than 700,000 barrels of oil per day. Over that period, we have invested more than USD30 billion and underpinned all that activity with a strong culture of safety, integrity, being efficient and low cost, and managing a reliable volumes delivery for the government of Angola. Block 15 started production in 2003 and currently produces about 150,000 barrels per day, but we are actively preparing for a Redevelopment Project that will deliver two new drilling rigs in Block 15 to produce approximately 40,000 barrels per day of additional production, offsetting the natural production decline.
What is the importance of Blocks 17 and 32 for ExxonMobil Angola?
We have 19% interest in Block 17 and 15% in Block 32, both of which are operated by TotalEnergies. Blocks 15, 17, and 32 represent about 60% of the entire gross oil production in the country, which makes us a major player in the Angola oil industry. These Blocks are indeed very important to us from an overall operations perspective.
There is a seismic exploration taking place for three new Blocks in the Namibe Basin. What are your expectations for this project?
Blocks 30, 44, and 45 is true frontier exploration, and we are very excited about the opportunity to evaluate the potential of a new basin in Angola. Seismic has already been shot, and we are now in the process of doing the interpretation of the technical data. The acquisition of these Blocks demonstrates our commitment to Angola and our dedication to frontier exploration. There is no production or current exploration yet in this basin but with our long history of deepwater exploration and production success in Angola and around the world, we look forward to deploying our proven expertise and advanced technology in this project.
ExxonMobil signed agreements with the National Petroleum, Gas and Biofuels Agency (ANPG) and Sonangol in 2019, in addition to other agreements with oil and gas companies. What is the importance of such partnerships for ExxonMobil?
The partnerships are incredibly important, whether with partner with the national concessionaire (ANPG), the national oil company (Sonangol) or with the other IOCs. These partnerships are critical across all of our business because of the high-risk, high-reward aspect. When we first got into these blocks, it was simply too high risk to fund them all on our own. As an example, Sonangol is our partner in the Namibe Basin, and it is impressive how the partnerships work here in Angola. Having just arrived in January 2021, I am amazed at how the industry association (ACEPA) can work together for what is best for the industry and for Angola. These companies are all competitors, but their ability to work together, and most notably amid the COVID-19 pandemic, to move people from all around the world to keep operations going and generate those important revenue streams out for the economy of Angola was impressive.
What is your opinion on the activities and decisions taken by the ANPG in the oil and gas sector?
The Government made some changes a few years ago to address the unique roles between Sonangol as the NOC and ANPG as the national concessionaire. That provided some efficiencies to be able to focus on specialized and unique skills and segments in our industry. A good example for us is how we were able to work with the concessionaire to direct negotiate for the Namibe Blocks and utilize some industry seismic to expedite the overall process of getting to the point of understanding the resource and move toward a development plan. There are always negotiations, and you have to focus on creating a win-win scenario for both parties that are involved.
Could you go into greater detail about your discoveries in Guyana and how the Angolan team is involved?
We have had 20 discoveries in Guyana over the last five and half years, making it a significant success, with a great deal of ongoing activity. The first FPSO started production in late 2019, and the second one set sail from Singapore and is on its way to Guyana, with plans for future growth. All these discoveries were made offshore. We have had ongoing discussions with the staffing organization there in terms of sending our employees with experience to work on Guyana FPSOs. Beyond that, local content is a key priority for us. With more than 93% of our local workforce being Angolans, we apply a rigorous talent management process which routinely assesses employee performance and development plans against the company's needs.
ExxonMobil is committed to reducing its carbon footprint, as well as developing sustainability and environmental protection projects. How are these projects being developed at the moment in Angola?
We are absolutely committed to producing energy, essential for modern life. In Angola, there is a necessity to provide safe, reliable and affordable energy that protects people, the environment, and the communities in which we operate. That includes mitigating the risks of climate change. This dual challenge will be even more important going forward. Fundamentally, we want to lift people out of poverty and we want to be a preferred partner in this space. Specifically in Angola, we are constantly looking to enhance our environmental performance. In Block 15, where we operate, we have not had a reportable spill to water in six years. We have had a 50% reduction in flaring in the last three years, and we recently introduced an initiative to reduce plastic waste from our offshore facilities. We are very proud of these achievements, but we keep working to strive to do even more in this space.
What are some of your future projects, visions, and goals for 2022?
For 2022, our focus is to maximize value for Angola and our investors through production optimization and utilizing advances in technology as much as possible. With the maturity of the Block 15 fields and some facilities approaching significant age, we are focused on reliability and integrity of facilities and maximizing the recovery of the remaining resource. As part of the Block 15 redevelopment project we plan to start our drilling program and conduct subsea infrastructure enhancements.