Nigeria-based Oranto Petroleum has farmed into two exploration blocks located onshore Zambia, representing its first investment in the country. Under an agreement signed on June 26, Oranto Petroleum will hold a 90% stake in Blocks 17 and 27, while ZCCM Investment Holdings will control 10%, on behalf of the Zambian government.
Oranto said that it will be required to conduct geological and geophysical studies during the first two phases – each of which runs for two years.
The company claims to hold more acreage than any other African independent and has been seeking development partners for several fields across the continent. “Oranto Petroleum is committed to an aggressive work programme to increase the level of prospectivity in one of the world’s last true frontier markets,” said the company’s chairman, Prince Arthur Eze.
Oranto is focused on the continent’s “frontier oil and gas markets, and we are very pleased to add Zambia to our extensive portfolio. We are committed to developing Zambia into an oil and gas producing nation, as we have many times with other countries on the continent.”
Current oil and gas operators in under-explored Zambia – where only marginal finds have so far been discovered – are mostly small, with the exception of Tullow Oil. However, the country shares basins to the northeast and west with Tanzania and Angola respectively, both of which have made commercial discoveries.
Tullow completed a 20,000 square km gradiometry gravity survey and passive seismic survey in October 2017 and the results are now being assessed. The company’s 52,937 square km block – Production Exploration Licence 28 – includes three rift basins.
Oranto, and its sister company, Atlas Petroleum, comprise Africa’s largest privately held, Africa-focused exploration and production group, with 22 licenses in 11 jurisdictions, including producing assets in Nigeria and Equatorial Guinea. In late May, Oranto agreed to work with Rosneft, Russia’s largest oil producer, on the development of 21 oil assets in 17 African countries.
The Nigerian company has had its fair share of scandals, though. In 2011, Oranto was accused of paying bribes in Liberia and, in March of this year, the company was included on a list of sanctioned entities over its involvement in South Sudan.