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The Ivory Coast is the world’s largest exporter of cocoa beans and is also a big exporter of coffee. Petroleum has become another important export product since oil was discovered on the continental shelf of the Ivory Coast in the 1970s.

In 1997, Svenska farmed-in to the Espoir Field, Block CI-26, located north of the Baobab field, entering a partnership with Addax Petroleum, Ranger Oil, Tullow and the national oil company Petroci. When oil prices plummeted in 1998, Svenska left the licence for financial reasons, but stayed with the partnership in the newly formed CI-40 exploration licence, covering the Baobab prospect. Tullow and Addax decided to leave the partnership. Ranger was acquired by, and incorporated with, Canadian National Resources (CNR).


Interpretation of the seismic data was completed by the operator, CNR, Svenska and Petroci. The first well was drilled in 2001 and the theory of oil migration paths into the reservoir was confirmed. An appraisal well was drilled in 2002 and only three years later, production from the Baobab field commenced. At the time, this was the fastest oil development project ever performed in West Africa.

The reservoir is located in water depths of 1500 metres. Production from the field commenced in August 2005 from ten horizontal wells aided by three water injectors. The produced fluids were co-mingled and transported via flow lines to an FPSO moored in 900 metres water depth.


The vessel used for conversion to an FPSO was a very large crude carrier (VLCC) of 350,000 deadweight tonnage (DWT) called "Tina", built at Kockums shipyard in Sweden in 1978. After the Exxon Valdez accident in Alaska in 1989, single-hull tankers like "Tina" were no longer allowed to enter US ports or terminals. In 2004, she was converted into an FPSO by Modec International Inc. and contracted by the Baobab partnership. She left the Keppel shipyard in Singapore on 26 December 2004 – on the same day as the tsunami disaster struck the coasts of the Indian Ocean.

The FPSO arrived in the field offshore the Ivory Coast in January 2005. Oil production started in August 2005.

The FPSO is equipped to process hydrocarbons, separating crude oil, water and gas. The gas is partly used for power generation on board the vessel, partly piped via the Espoir export gas system to shore at the Adjue gas terminal and transported on to the Azito power generation plant near Abidjan, where it is used as feed stock for generating electricity.

Crude oil is stored in cargo tanks on board. The storage capacity is a generous 2.4 mmbbls.

The FPSO is owned and operated by Modec International Inc., a Japanese international supplier and operator of FPSOs.

Crude oil from the Baobab reservoir is comparatively heavy, but still attractive on the world market. It stays in liquid form down to -40°C, which is a big handling advantage for refineries in the northern hemisphere during winter conditions.

Baobab crude oil is marketed and sold worldwide by Shell, the largest trading company of West African crude oil, trading about 800,000 bbl/day. Traded oil is transferred from the FPSO to shuttle tankers for further shipment to refineries. Shuttle tankers are normally designed to fit either the Panama Canal or the Suez Canal. A Suez tanker has a capacity of 1 million barrels.

"The FPSO’s large storage capacity is an advantage in price negotiations, since we almost always can guarantee that the cargo is available when the buyer’s tanker is approaching," Jan explains.

"When we started production, we used a borehole completion technology called ’Expandable Sand Screens’ (ESS), to prolong well life by controlling the intrusion of fine-grained sand,” says Jan. “400 wells had previously been successfully drilled using this technique, but to us the fine Baobab sand still presented a problem. We lost five out of ten wells during the first year, when the expandable sand screens collapsed."

The solution was another completion technology, the tried and trusted “Open Hole Gravel Packing” (OHGP). It was introduced in Baobab in 2009, when four new wells were drilled as replacements for the failed Phase 1 wells. Three of these four wells are still in service. Of the original 10 ESS wells, only one remains.

"Losing the wells meant lower production, and for a while we were worried that there would not be a big enough oil stream to run the process equipment on the FPSO, which can handle a minimum stream of 5,000 bbl/day. But production never fell below 8,000 bbl/day, so we were able to handle the situation. The maximum limit for oil plus water, 70,000 bbl/day, will come in handy when the new production wells are in place."

Baobab will undergo further development, and new draining philosophies and technologies will be applied to exploit this resource to its maximum extent. Even with the Phase 4 wells in production, we are only targeting around 25 per cent of the oil in place. Future development phases are being considered, and a conceptual scenario for Phase 5 is taking shape. Assuming this will be a six well campaign we believe that the Estimated Ultimate Recoverable Reserves (EUR) will be increased by another 50+ mmboe to reach a recovery factor of more than 30 percent. We further believe that there is still room for increase and the partnership is working towards a target in excess of 40 per cent by the time the licence reaches relinquishment.

The Baobab production licence expires in 2028, but can be extended.

"If production is still profitable by that time, we can opt for a 10-year extension", Jan Hagen finishes.

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