The logo of French oil giant Total is seen at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie, near Paris, France. Picture: REUTERS
The logo of French oil giant Total is seen at La Defense business and financial district in Courbevoie, near Paris, France. Picture: REUTERS

Total SA is positioning itself as Angola’s top foreign operator in the country’s efforts to revive oil production from the lowest level in more than a decade.

The French energy company could one day operate about 40% of the nation’s production, and is considering an additional investment of as much as $10bn, according to CEO Patrick Pouyanne.

That gives the company a decisive role in what has become a major issue in Angola’s domestic politics as President Joao Lourenco vows to reverse economic problems caused by the industry’s decline.

“Angola is one of the most important countries for oil and gas in the continent,” Pouyanne said on Tuesday at a conference in Luanda, the capital.

In 2018, Angola’s oil output sank to 1.48-million barrels a day, according to data from state-run Sonangol. This is the lowest level in more than a decade and follows years of under-investment in new projects. In May, the former chair of Sonangol, Carlos Saturnino, was ousted following fuel shortages at filling stations.

The French oil major produced an average of 275,100 barrels of oil equivalent a day in Angola in 2018, according to consultant Wood Mackenzie. That is 14% more than BP produced in the country. Pouyanne said Total’s output in Angola could rise to as much as 650,000 barrels a day, without giving a timeframe.

In May, Total loaded the first cargo of Mostarda crude from the Kaombo Sul floating production, storage and offloading vessel. Along with another vessel, the Kaombo Norte, the ultra-deep water project has an estimated production capacity of 230,000 barrels of oil equivalent a day, according to operator Total.

It has already ramped up output to 90,000 barrels a day, Pouyanne said. The Kaombo project covers an area almost eight times the size of Paris, tapping reserves at depths of over 1,980m.

Totsa Total Oil Trading, Total’s trading unit, along with Trafigura, were awarded a 12-month contract to supply fuel to Angola, Sonangol said in May.

Other oil majors have also been in negotiations over Angolan blocks, and Eni has made other recent discoveries. Angola plans to put up more blocks for sale in October.

“We will be taking a very active interest in those licensing rounds,” said Stephen Willis, regional president for BP Angola.

The government has made upstream, commercial terms more attractive for operators, Exxon Mobil said.

“We are looking forward to building on the existing collaboration to promote further investment into Angola,” said Hunter Farris, senior vice-president of upstream deepwater at Exxon Mobil. As the country has seen decades of oil activity, “maximising recovery of discovered resources and pursuing new exploration activities are critical”.

Bloomberg