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Last Updated: December 2016

Overview


Map of Gabon
Map of Gabon
  • Gabon is a mature oil producer in West Africa that has been facing declining output for more than a decade.
  • Gabon was a member of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) from 1975 to 1994, but it departed from the organization because of high annual fees.
  • Gabon’s economy is heavily dependent on its oil production. Oil revenue accounted for 45% of total government revenue, and hydrocarbon exports accounted for nearly 85% of total export revenue in 2014, according to the most recent data from the International Monetary Fund.
  • In 2011, the government created a national oil company (NOC), the Gabon Oil Company, to increase the government’s involvement in oil production by taking equity stakes in future awards. Gabon did not have a NOC for more than two decades after the previous company, Sociét Nationale Petroliére Gabonaise, was disbanded in 1987.
  • Petroleum and other liquids

  • Gabon is among the top five oil producers in Sub-Saharan Africa. The country produced around 213,000 barrels per day (b/d) of petroleum and other liquids in 2015. Gabon has diversified its crude oil export markets over the past few years and sends the majority of its production to Australia, Malaysia, South Korea, Singapore, Japan, Spain, France, and Trinidad and Tobago.
  • Low oil prices, mature oil fields, and a lack of major new finds have caused Gabon’s oil output to decline. Total oil production has decreased by more than one third since its peak of 370,000 b/d in 1997.
  • Total, the French oil major, and Royal Dutch Shell are the largest oil producers in Gabon. Other significant oil producers include the Paris based-Perenco, the Sinopec-owned Addax Petroleum, and the Houston-based Vaalco Energy.
  • Recent deepwater and pre-salt discoveries have piqued investor interest in Gabon’s offshore production potential. In 2013 and 2014, several international companies discovered sizeable hydrocarbon deposits in pre-salt formations off the Gabonese coast. The discoveries include Total’s Diaba field, Royal Dutch Shell’s Leopard-1 well, and Italian-owned Eni’s Nyonie Deep prospect.
  • Gabon’s Ministry of Energy is in the process of awarding its deepwater oil and natural gas blocks. In 2014, the country awarded 13 offshore blocks to 11 international companies. Bidding winners included Ophir Energy, ExxonMobil, Eni, and Repsol, among others. The country launched its most recent bidding round for five offshore blocks in late 2015.
  • In late 2014, Gabon published a new hydrocarbons law that granted the Gabonese government more control over the country’s oil and gas activities. Under the new legislation, Gabon’s NOC is authorized a 15% equity stake in all new projects. The law also mandates that local workers hold at least 90% of all energy sector jobs, including executive positions.
  • Gabon’s downstream sector is very small and the country has a single refinery, the Sogara Refinery located at Port-Gentil. The Sogara Refinery has a crude oil distillation capacity of 24,000 b/d, according to the Oil and Gas Journal. The refinery operates below capacity, and output fluctuates because of maintenance challenges at the aging facility, built in 1967.
  • Gabon and South Korean company Samsung signed a memorandum of understanding in July 2012 for the construction of a new 50,000 b/d refinery in Port-Gentil to replace Sogara. The project is currently in early planning phases.
  • Natural Gas

  • Gabon produced around 12 billion cubic feet (Bcf) of natural gas in 2015, according to the International Energy Agency. The country has approximately 1,000 Bcf of proved natural gas reserves, most of which are associated with oil fields.
  • Almost 80% of the natural gas produced in Gabon is either flared or re-injected into oil wells to aid oil recovery. However, Gabon’s new hydrocarbons code has established limits on gas flaring in accordance with United Nations initiatives, which may reduce flaring in the future.
  • The Nyonie Deep prospect in the North Gabon Basin, owned by Italian major Eni, could hold as much as 500 million barrels of oil equivalent in natural gas and condensates. Development of this pre-salt prospect, as well as further exploration of surrounding potential hydrocarbons zones, may significantly boost the country’s natural gas production.
  • Electricity

  • Gabon had 700 Megawatts (MW) of installed generation capacity as of 2016, and about 35% of electricity net generation were from hydroelectric sources in 2014.
  • According to the latest 2014 estimates from the International Energy Agency, 89% of Gabon’s population has access to electricity. Gabon’s urban areas consume most of the country’s generated power, and the country’s rural electrification rate is only 38%.
  • Gabon’s growing and urbanizing population and its industrial development are straining the country’s power generation capacity. Gabon has an estimated 5,000 to 6,000 MW of undeveloped hydropower potential, which if exploited, could substantially increase the country’s electrification rate.
  • To meet the country’s electricity demand, Gabon continues to invest in new hydroelectric power plants and transmission line extensions. Gabon’s largest hydroelectric project, the Grand Poubara dam on the Ogooué River, came online in 2013. The 160-MW Grand Poubara will increase capacity to 280 MW once planned expansions are complete. Several other hydropower projects are currently under construction, including the 115-MW Ngoulmendjim dam, the 84-MW project at the Empress Eugenie Falls, and the 36-MW FE-2 facility on the Okano River.