Libya, Congo, Algeria….Who has the best oil in Africa ?

By Achraf Tijani
Posted on Thursday, 26 August 2021 14:08

A view shows Ras Lanuf Oil and Gas Company in Ras Lanuf, Libya August 18, 2020. REUTERS/Esam Omran Al-Fetori

Several types of oil exist in Africa. Crude oil is considered to be of good quality when it has a low sulphur content – less than 0.5% of its total weight – and a low density...and the continent has plenty of this.

According to the BP Annual Statistical Review of Energy, published in July 2021, the continent produced 7.8% of the global supply of oil. The review does not only cover black gold, but also the continent’s natural gas and coal resources.

It is also looking ahead to the future, giving exact figures for renewable energy production such as solar, wind and biofuels. However, oil remains the most widely used energy source in the world. We’ve reviewed the countries claiming to have the best raw materials buried in their soil.

Algeria: Sahara Blend – the Hassi Messaoud gem

This crude oil from North Africa is extremely light sweet and contains less than 0.05% sulphur. Western refineries greatly value it for its light derivatives such as petroleum or kerosene.

According to the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) Monthly Oil Market Report, published on 12 August 2021, Algerian black gold is the third most expensive oil of the organisation’s member countries, behind the Equatoguinean Zafiro and the Angolan Girassol. The Sahara Blend is produced from various oil fields in the region, blending different crude oils found around Hassi Messaoud town.

In 2020, Mohamed Arkab, Algeria’s minister of energy and mining, said there were enough oil reserves in Algerian soil to last 27 years.

Nigeria: Bonny Light – the European favourite

Bonny Light – named after the fields surrounding Bonny town in Rivers State – is the globally renowned oil of the leading producer in Africa.

It is lighter and lower in sulphur (around 0.15%) than oils found in the Gulf States; however, Nigeria does not have the infrastructure to refine all the country’s black gold, so it is exported to European ports, such as Antwerp and Rotterdam. European refineries like Bonny Light’s low sulphur content, as it is less harmful to the environment than higher sulphur crude oils.

Other crude oils such as Qua Iboe and Forcados help bolster Nigeria’s position as the continent’s leading producer.

28 June 2016: a team from the Perenco oil group works on a faulty oil well near Muanda, in the extreme west of the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Congo: N’Kossa is the favourite

Congo has enough reserves to last the next 25 years. According to a report published by the French ministry of finance on 29 April 2021, Congo produces three types of crude oil: N’Kossa, Djeno and Yombo. The first two are light and low in sulphur (0.06%); however, Yombo is less popular as it is heavier.

According to a press release published by the Africa Oil Week in 2019 – a global platform that brings together African companies, governments, and investors – the fourth largest producer in sub-Saharan Africa extracts oil of which the “average quality […] has improved over the years”.

Libya: crude oil at ground level

Libya, alongside its Algerian neighbour, has the best quality oil among OPEC members. The country is considered to be a highly attractive oil area because the product is low in sulphur (0.1%), easy to extract and close to western consumer markets. Libya has the largest reserves in Africa, with 4.1% of proven global reserves (OPEC figures from 2018).

The destabilisation of the country after the fall of Muammar Gaddafi in 2011 led to a decrease in Libyan oil production. This spurred great panic in global markets as the main attraction of Libyan oil for investors was its low cost of production and ease of refining.

Production was halted during the second Libyan Civil War (2014 to October 2020) and resumed following the ceasefire agreement signed by the Government of National Accord (GNA) and the group led by Marshal Khalifa Haftar.

Angola: Crude oil for all markets

Angolan crude oil was discovered in 1955. Various types – Girassol, Nemba and Palança – that exist in the country’s subsoil and continental shelf are light and used to make diesel fuel. They are usually sent to the American market, and Kuito, a heavier oil, is preferred by the Middle Eastern market. Cabina Blend, which has low sulphur content (0.13%) and average density, is sold in the Chinese market.

The Southern African country joined OPEC in 2007 and has had remarkable success in exploring new oil fields using inexpensive resources. Despite the fact that it rivals Nigeria in terms of production in sub-Saharan Africa, only 20% of refined products (diesel, petrol, and other fuels) used in domestic consumption come from Angolan subsoils.

Senegal: the promising Sangomar

Mamadou Faye, managing director of Petrosen – the national oil company – described the oil discovered in the field 100km away from the point of Sangomar as “excellent quality”. This is the first offshore discovery for the Land of Teranga.

In August 2017, the Dutch ministry of economic affairs confirmed this observation and shared it with Australian operator Woodside, which will begin production in 2022, according to a report published in February 2020 by SenRTT – the Senegalese network of think tanks on oil and gas.

Equatorial Guinea is counting on Zafiro

Teodoro N’Guema Obiang’s country is host to very high-quality oil. A rentier state par excellence, 90% of the country’s export earnings come from crude oil. The Zafiro offshore field, which contains crude oil with low sulphur content, has been run by American company ExxonMobil since 1996. It was renamed New Zafiro in 2005 and is one of the most exported crude oils in the country, alongside Ceiba.

Like in Nigeria, most petroleum products for domestic use are imported. To combat this issue, in November 2019, Gabriel Obiang Lima – the Equatoguinean minister of mines and hydrocarbons – called on investors to get involved in a project to build three refineries, one of which would be used to distil New Zafiro.

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