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Untapped Potential Offshore Côte d’Ivoire & Ghana

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PGS MultiClient 3D seismic data and recent research have enabled a better understanding of the structural architecture of the Côte d’Ivoire and Tano basins and reveal remaining underexplored potential in the deep-water areas.

The Côte d’Ivoire and Tano basins form a prolific hydrocarbon province with several large, high-profile discoveries made in recent decades including the discovery of the Jubilee field (Kosmos, 2007) in Ghana, and the play opening discoveries of the Baleine and Calao fields (Eni, 2021 & 2024) offshore Côte d’Ivoire shown in the image below.

The basins are bounded by two transform faults: the Saint Paul’s and Romanche Fracture Zones. 


Map showing the PGS MultiClient data library in the Gulf of Guinea, with key discoveries indicated.

The Tano Basin developed in an area of relative tectonic quiescence between the Saint Paul’s and Romanche Fracture Zones, resulting in pull-apart grabens with a thick clastic fill. The St Paul’s transform terminates into a curved coastal fault in the eastern Ivorian offshore and evolves into a horsetail splay structure at the connection with the Romanche Fracture Zone, offshore Ghana. Generally, this has created a broad shelf to deep water profile, underpinned by thick continental crust. In comparison, the Côte d’Ivoire Basin has a narrow shelf to deep water profile, characterized by transform faulting. The continental to oceanic crustal transition is more abrupt here as observed on the Bouguer-corrected gravity data shown below.

Two main plays have been the focus of exploration in the region; the syn-transform Lower Cretaceous and the post-transform Upper Cretaceous. The Upper Cretaceous system is most successful around and outboard of the shelf edge due to the thick clastic section allowing for the sufficient burial of shallower Cenomanian-Turonian aged source rocks. These type II source rocks have mixed oil and gas potential. Complementing this widespread source kitchen are Albian to Santonian aged shallow to deep marine sandstone reservoirs deposited as turbidite channel and fan systems. 

Bouguer corrected gravity anomaly map (200km HP filter) displaying the key tectonic lineaments along the Gulf of Guinea margin. The Saint Paul’s and Romanche Fracture Zones are highlighted, along with the Continental to Oceanic Crustal Boundary (COB).

The distribution of Upper Cretaceous sediments can be illustrated using an RMS amplitude extraction highlighting the implications for prospectivity from west to east across the margin, see image below.

In the Tano Basin we observe the influence that structural development has on reservoir distribution. Sands are segregated within terraces as frontal splay complexes before bypassing the subsequent down-slope ramp and ponding in the next terrace (see the final image). This low gradient, paleo-bathymetry allows for the development of combination stratigraphic/structural traps at multiple levels on the shelf slope. 

To the west, the steep single-faulted margin of the Saint Paul’s Fracture Zone results in clastic sediment largely bypassing the slope and being deposited in the deep-water basin floor. This deep-water area in both the Côte d’Ivoire and Tano basins is relatively underexplored although basin floor fans are clearly observed to be widely present and discoveries such as Calao have proven the play fairway in this area.

However, recent 2022 exploration success offshore Namibia with TotalEnergies’ Venus-1 discovery has suggested that Upper Cretaceous turbidite reservoirs at the base of slope can prove successful by utilizing outer highs and counter-regional dip to provide trapping mechanisms. Similar concepts can be applied to the outboard area of the Côte d’Ivoire and Tano Basins where deep-water sediments are observed to drape over oceanic crustal highs in four-way dip closures.

 Drawing further on the Namibia play analogs, Cretaceous aged source rocks deposited over transitional to oceanic crust in the deep-water Orange Basin are oil mature in outboard areas. The concept for hydrocarbon generation and expulsion from source rocks subjected to increased heat flux from the mantle may also be applied to the deep water offshore of Côte d’Ivoire and Ghana, expanding prospectivity beyond the area underpinned by continental crust. 

This regional-scale understanding of petroleum systems highlights the exciting opportunities remaining over oceanic crust in the Côte d’Ivoire and Tano Basins, allowing exploration potential to be extended from analogs and existing in-basin discoveries into underexplored areas.


RMS amplitude extraction from the Upper Cretaceous created using PGS merged 3D full stack pre and post-stack time migrated seismic data highlighting sediment distribution across the margin.

Merged 3D full stack PSTM seismic dip line across the Tano Basin. This line shows the extended lateral change from thin continental crust in the northeast to oceanic crust in the southwest with multiple ramp-terrace structures occurring along the shelf to deep water profile.