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Last year's string of giant oil discoveries off West Africa has led to an increase in exploration there and a scramble to secure acreage.
This is the view of Wood Mackenzie Consultants Ltd., Edinburgh, which says 1997 was an outstanding year for the region's exploration and development companies.
Deepwater areas off Angola and Congo Republic were said to be confirmed as a world-class exploration play, with production from the region replaced almost six times by new finds and reserves upgrades.
"We predict," said Wood Mackenzie, "that 1998 will be another busy year in all sectors. New field developments will continue apace and production will continue to rise.
"Appraisal of some of the important recent discoveries will maintain high levels of exploration and appraisal drilling in 1998."
The analyst said 70 exploration and appraisal wells, including 40 wildcats, were drilled last year in West Africa, excluding Nigeria, up from 53 in 1996 and 35 in 1995: "We expect drilling activity to maintain this high level in 1998."
Fourteen potentially commercial discoveries were made last year, said the analyst, adding combined reserves tentatively estimated at 2.86 …