The GTA and its massive potential

The continued expansion of mining production and the upcoming development of the Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) project, combined with strong domestic demand, are seen as key factors in Mauritania’s recovery process after the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Coastal Basin has seen intensive exploration campaigns that have resulted in the discovery of oil fields and the signing of 14 exploration-production contracts (EPCs) both offshore and onshore, 11 of which are in the exploration phase. Among the fields discovered are: Chinguetti (oil production), Tiof and Thevet (oil), Walata (oil), Abelinda (oil), Banda (gas), Pelican (gas), Faucon (oil), Ahmeyim (gas), Bir Allah (gas).

Mauritania has had no active hydrocarbon production since oil production at Chinguetti ceased at the end of 2017, while gas production from the GTA is not expected to start until 2023 due to delays caused by the pandemic. The GTA is Mauritania’s first world-class discovery with gas production and revenue potential 30-times greater than any activity to date. It positions Mauritania as an emerging major player in gas exports and has the potential to transform the country’s economy.

GTA’s infrastructure and contractors involved

The GTA field will be initially developed with a deepwater subsea production system comprising 4 gas production wells tied-back to a Floating Production, Storage and Offloading (FPSO) unit. The gas will be processed for the removal of heavier hydrocarbon components on the FPSO. The processed gas will be further sent via a 100 kilometre-subsea pipeline to a USD $1.3 billion near-shore Floating LNG (FLNG) vessel named Gimi. The Gimi FLNG will be capable of producing 2.5 million tons of LNG a year for global export; the remaining gas will be sent through pipelines to Mauritania and Senegal gas markets, for domestic consumption. BP Gas Marketing will off-take the entire LNG output from the GTA Phase 1 development project.

  • In regards to contractors, TechnipFMC was contracted for the engineering, procurement, construction, installation, and commissioning (EPCIC) of the FPSO unit for the project in March 2019. It followed a front-end engineering and design (FEED) contract for the FPSO awarded to the same company in April 2018.
  • Golar LNG is responsible for the construction and operation of the Gimi FLNG, while Keppel is engaged for the conversion works associated with the project.
  • Black & Veatch will provide the PRICO liquefaction process for the Gimi FLNG.
  • KBR was awarded the engineering, procurement, and construction management (EPCM) contract for the facilities integration as well as for the terminal quarters and utilities management for the near-shore terminal of the project in May 2019. It followed a FEED contract awarded in October 2018.
  • KBR was also awarded the pre-FEED contract for the second and third phase development of the GTA offshore project in April 2019.
  • CH2M HILL was subcontracted by KBR for the civil and marine engineering services of the GTA LNG project in October 2017.
  • Eiffage Génie Civil Marine in a consortium with Saipem was awarded the EPCI  contract for the near-shore terminal of the project in February 2019, followed by a FEED contract awarded  in April 2018.

GTA and Bir Allah, two world-class gas discoveries

In December 2015, Hydrocarbon research led to the discovery of significant gas resources in the GTA, located astride the maritime border of Mauritania and Senegal.

The resources of this world-class field are estimated at 450 billion cubic meters, and its exploitation is expected to begin in 2023. The gas will be produced from a deepwater subsea system and a floating unit, and is ranked as one of the top 10 hydrocarbon discoveries of the last decade; it is clear that the GTA could cause a major shift in the map of African oil players.

The discovery of the GTA has been followed by that of Bir Allah, the largest gas field in the region, located entirely in the Mauritanian offshore. Indeed, the research undertaken by BP and its partners (SMH and Kosmos Energy) has led to the largest gas discovery in the world in deep waters in 2019.

In 2016, Kosmos (60% stake), Timis, now BP (30% stake), and the National Oil Company of Senegal (PETROSEN) (10% stake), reported another Senegalese offshore gas discovery just 5 kilometres from the Ahmeyim-1 well. BP deepened its investment in 2017 in Senegal by acquiring the entire 30% minority interest in two offshore blocks in Senegal, St. Louis Profond and Cayar Profond, increasing its stake to 60%, with Kosmos at 30% and Société des Pétroles du Sénégal (PETROSEN) at 10%. In summary, these 33,000 square kilometres, which include the Yakaar-1 well, potentially contain 50-100 trillion cubic feet of gas resources, and the GTA field estimated to have over 15 trillion cubic feet of discovered gas resources.

In December 2018, following the successful agreement between the Mauritanian and Senegalese governments and partners BP, Kosmos Energy and National Oil Companies (NOCs) PETROSEN and SMHPM, BP announced the final investment decision for Phase 1 of the innovative GTA development marking the beginning of an exemplary multi-phase project for generations to come.

What is the government doing about the GTA?

The Government of Mauritania in designing and implementing a comprehensive and modern communications strategy for the Ministry of Petroleum, Mines and Energy (MPME), particularly to promote oil and gas development with a focus on the GTA project.

Also, a diagnostic phase is essential to assess the existing communication channels and to better understand the current institutional capacity for communication, information and dialogue with target audiences such as MPME operators (internal communication), the Société Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures et de Patrimoine Minier (SMHPM), as well as other stakeholders. 

Addressing key stakeholder concerns

After the audit phase, Mauritania will focus on the key issues identified in Phase 1, and develop a strategy to address key stakeholder concerns, as well as a promotional and communications campaign about Mauritania, focusing on the GTA project and the opportunities offered by the hydrocarbon and energy sectors.

The aim is to develop a comprehensive list of stakeholders to identify target audiences involved in oil and gas development, particularly the GTA project, for the attention of the Mauritanian government. The stakeholders identified in Phase 1 will be categorized using the categorization tool.

Les Mauritanides and the GTA and the development of a Stakeholder Analysis Matrix

Les Mauritanides, the biannual international mining and energy conference (or the idea of an annual conference), held at Nouakchott, can play a key role in positioning and branding the country internationally, securing investment and engaging stakeholders. It is a key communication forum for the development and promotion of oil, gas and mining projects, including the GTA and Birallah.

Moreover, the development of a Stakeholder Analysis Matrix to identify categories of stakeholders and their expectations on issues that relate to the oil and gas sector as a whole, and the GTA project in particular, is also a key point for the Mauritanian government.

In-depth trainings and regional partnerships

The first type of training will be tailored to the teams working on the project (including the negotiation and GTA project teams) and will take into account the project timeline and its specific needs.

While highlighting Mauritania’s competitiveness and opportunities, it is important to create sustainable partnerships with neighbouring countries and beyond in order to strengthen the development and position of the region, particularly in projects such as the GTA.

Coordination with Senegal

The Government of Senegal received similar technical assistance to Mauritania’s from the World Bank in 2017 to support the development of the GTA gas field and other confirmed gas fields in the country.

While the two countries are working separately on the development of the GTA gas field, a well-coordinated stakeholder management campaign will have a very positive impact on the project and help ensure its future success.

About the Author: Felipe Gaitán Michelsen