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African Oil Plays

Andrew J. Clifford

The vast continent of Africa hosts over eighty sedimentary basins, covering approximately half its total area. Of these basins, only 82% have entered a mature exploration phase, 9% have had little or no exploration at all. Since oil was first discovered in Africa during the mid-1950s, old play concepts continue to bear fruit, for example in Egypt and Nigeria, while new play concepts promise to become more important, such as in Algeria, Angola, Chad, Egypt, Gabon, and Sudan.

The most exciting developments of recent years in African oil exploration are: (1) the Gamba/Dentale play, onshore Gabon; (2) the Pinda play, offshore Angola; (3) the Lucula/Toca play, offshore Cabinda; (4) the Metlaoui play, offshore Libya/Tunisia; (5) the mid-Cretaceous sand play, Chad/Sudan; and (6) the TAG-I/F6 play, onshore Algeria. Examples of these plays are illustrated along with some of the more traditional oil plays.

Where are the future oil plays likely to develop? No doubt, the Saharan basins of Algeria and Libya will feature strongly, also the pre-salt of Equatorial West Africa, the Central African Rift System and, more speculatively, offshore Ethiopia and Namibia, and onshore Madagascar, Mozambique, and Tanzania.

AAPG Search and Discovery Article #91028©1989 AAPG History of Petroleum Industry Symposium, September 17-20, 1989, Titusville, Pennsylvania.