In recent years, hydrocarbon discoveries in Morocco have been more gas than oil. Moreover, these discoveries are generally small in size. The most interesting of these discoveries to date is Anchois, which is located on the Lixus Offshore marine license off the town of Larache.
This permit has been held since 2019 by Chariot Limited (75%), a company based in Guernsey, and by the Office National des Hydrocarbures et des Mines (Onhym – 25%), the national company of Morocco. Chariot is the operator of Lixus, which covers an area of 1,794 km².
A discovery that dates back to 2009, confirmed in early 2022
The discovery actually dates back to 2009, with the Anchois-1 exploration well. In December 2021, Chariot drilled the Anchois-2 well, which was both an appraisal and exploration well. This means that this fodder had a dual purpose: to assess discovered gas resources (appraisal) and to examine the potential of other areas (exploration).
Anchois-2 was a success: the thickness of the net producing zone is attributed to 150 meters (55 meters for the Anchois-1 well) and the two partners have since been considering the development of the Anchois gas field.
In July 2022, Chariot reported new estimates of Anchois gas resources. These figures presented from a company specializing in this field, Netherland Sewell & Associates, Inc. (NSAI, Texas).
The “contingent” (contingent) resources of Anchois are now supplied at 637 billion cubic feet (637 Bcf) of gas, or 18 billion cubic meters, the “prospective” resources at 754 Bcf. (21.35 billion cubic meters) and the remaining recoverable resources at 1,391 Bcf. (39.4 billion cubic meters), i.e. the sum of contingent and prospective resources.
NSAI also gave estimates for the entire Lixus permit and for that of Rissana Offshore (8,490 km²) which surrounded Lixus. Rissana was awarded to Chariot/Onhym in early 2022. But these estimates (remaining recoverable resources of 4,600 Gp.c. for Lixus, or 130.25 billion cubic meters) are not based on drilling and their degree of reliability is therefore low enough.
If we stick to the Anchois gas field, it should be noted that we do not yet have reserve estimates. The concept of reserves is defined on the basis of three key criteria: there has been one or more discoveries, the volumes of hydrocarbons are technically recovered and their exploitation would be rental.
Contingent resources are not currently planned as commercial (profitable) but could become so. Prospective resources are the quantities of hydrocarbons that could be potentially recoverable from undiscovered accumulations. This second category is therefore very speculative since there have been no discoveries.
“Anchovies” could go into production in 2024 or 2025
Chariot intends to accelerate the future development of Achois with a view to putting it into production “as quickly as possible”. Chariot and Onhym have therefore worked on all aspects of this project and on the development plan in order to reach the final investment decision (DFI). A contract for detailed pre-project studies (front-end engineering and design or FEED in professional jargon) was awarded.
Chariot also wants to explore other interesting targets (called “prospects”) on the Lixus Offshore permit. Three prospects have thus been identified. Another objective of the consortium is to study the potential of the Rissana Offshore permit.
Even if it is advisable to remain cautious at this stage on the scale of the future gas reserves of Anchois and the Lixus permit (as indicated above, we can speak for the moment of resources and not yet of reserves), the development project is based on a few key assets, including the proximity of the Maghreb-Europe gas pipeline (GME).
This gas pipeline runs from Algeria to the Iberian Peninsula via Morocco, but the Algerian section was closed from November 1, 2021, just over two months after the rupture of diplomatic relations between Algiers and Rabat. Spain and Morocco have agreed to use part of the GME in the other direction, ie from Spain to Morocco.
This use was effective for the first time at the end of June 2022, which allowed Morocco to import natural gas from liquefied natural gas (LNG) arrived in Spain where it was regasified. Chariot now estimates that Achois could go into production in 2024 or 2025.
*Senior Fellow at the Policy Center for the New South, specialized in the field of energy