As seen by submarine, parts of the seabed off West Africa look remarkably like the Norwegian continental shelf, with bright yellow subsea production systems rising up to meet large-capacity FPSOs.
The resemblance is easy to explain: Angola and other West African countries hit their stride as oil producers just as Norwegian equipment suppliers perfected subsea and floating production technologies that were ideal for African waters. Oil companies with African leases lost no time shipping Norwegian production systems southward to start developing the 30 or so major fields that have been discovered off West Africa.
First out, in January 2000, was Angola's Kuito field in 393 metres of water. Using its facilities in Angola and elsewhere, ABB designed and installed a 12-slot subsea production manifold, production trees and remote water injection system. ABB financed the project itself. Everything was up and running 15 months after Cabinda Gulf Oil, a subsidiary of Chevron, awarded the contract. Next, it was FMC Kongsberg Subsea's turn to shine. TotalFinaElf awarded the company an EPC contract for the entire subsea production system at Girassol, a giant Angolan field in water ranging from 1,250 metres to 1,450 metres deep. The landmark project features FMC Kongsberg's modular production system called HOST 2500, designed for water up to 2 500 metres deep. TotalFinaElf and its partners will be able to make a profit on the project even if the price of oil falls to USD 6 per barrel.
A Northern Armada
Kvaerner Oil & Gas and Aker Maritime are also eager participants in the African oil adventure, each bringing unique skills to the region. Petroleum Geo-Services has conducted multi-vessel 3D seismic surveys along much of the African coast, while TGS-NOPEC has acquired more than 40,000 kilometres of 2D seismic data there. After several successful vessel conversions, Fred. Olsen Energy has become a major operator of FPSOs in the African market. Its FPSO Knock Taggart and its MoPU Borgen Dolphin are in service off Nigeria; its FSO/shuttle tanker Knock Dee is offshore South Africa and the FPSO Petroleo Nautipa is stationed offshore Angola. Rig contractor Ocean Rig is also active in the area, while many other Norwegian contractors help in their own ways to boost prosperity in one of the world's most exciting oil-producing regions.
Hands Across the Water
When Norway began developing as an oil country in the 1970s it made sure to learn everything it could from the international companies that wanted to exploit the North Sea. Now it's passing the torch. FMC, for example, has established a training and maintenance base in Luanda. ABB employs 1,000 people in Nigeria alone. Likewise, Norway's biggest oil companies have been sensitive to their African hosts. In Angola, Norsk Hydro assists with educational, agricultural and water-supply projects. It also serves as technical consultant for the Angolan state oil company, Sonangol. Statoil has sponsored mine-clearing operations in Angola and provides USD 200,000 per year in aid to the Akassa tribe of Nigeria's Niger Delta.