All it takes are a few huge discoveries to make the industry take a new look at what it considered an established province.

Such is the case with Africa. Nigeria and Angola have long been the heavy hitters in West Africa, with Algeria, Libya, and Egypt taking the lead in North Africa. But in a talk at the Houston Geological Society International Explorationists Dinner, Duncan Macgregor with Neftex Petroleum Consultants and Surestream Petroleum said that, with the exception of the eastern Mediterranean portions of Libya and Egypt, these plays are beginning to peak out.

But this is no reason to write the continent off. Macgregor said that new discoveries in Ghana, Israel, and Uganda are challenging established geological paradigms in trap styles and reservoirs, even though most of them are extensions or analogs of the main source rock systems.

This effort has primarily been led by independents such as Tullow, Kosmos, Hardman, Heritage, and Noble, which are taking on significant frontier exploration risks to make these discoveries.

Macgregor outlined several key learnings:

· High stratigraphic trapping potential in turbidite systems on slopes and bypass zones;

· Exploration moving farther out onto basin floors;

· A large contribution from non-marine systems and a low contribution from shallow marine systems;

· A highly dynamic petroleum system in the Albertine Basin of Uganda that makes conventionally high-risk trap styles effective; and

· Source rocks that underwent greater burial and maturation than is apparent from present-day burial depths.

He said that the next petroleum province will likely be along the trend of one of the major source rock systems and that an element that the industry doesn’t fully understand is causing companies to be overly leery of the risk involved in this province. The challenges to gaining this understanding, he said, include reconstructing the paleogeography of Africa to high-grade basins and regions for 3-D and direct hydrocarbon indicator (DHI) risk reduction, developing techniques for exploring traps below the DHI floor, identifying further sweet spots, identifying regions of maximum trap preservation potential, and reconstructing the burial history of onshore basins containing developments of major source rocks.

Finally, he said, the industry needs to acknowledge the fact that Africa’s petroleum geology has offered up surprises and will continue to challenge established geological paradigms. “Success may, however, come to those who best integrate the regional geology to reduce their exposure to risk but still make allowance for Africa’s petroleum geology to surprise them, positively or otherwise,” he said.