Africa Brief

Top oil companies in Africa


Economic growth appears to be the way of the immediate future for the African continent, and happily so. A significant factor in this growth is increased exploitation of the continent’s many natural resources, one of which is oil. While Africa can’t boast the oil reserves and production of certain other parts of the world, its oil fields still command significant attention. Local oil production has been steadily increasing ever since the 1980s; in 1981 the continent produced roughly 5 million BOE/D, a figure that doubled by 2010 to 10 million, according to the US Department of Energy and the Oil & Gas Journal.

Moreover, Africa’s proved oil reserves are also on the rise, a good indicator for sustained growth; in the 1980s proved oil reserves remained stable around 60 million BOE, but they then steadily increased over the ensuing 30 years to reach a doubled figure of roughly 120 million BOE in 2010. Clearly there is much money to be made by oil companies operating in Africa.

At present the top 10 local oil-producing nations are Nigeria, Libya, Algeria, Angola, Egypt, Sudan, Equatorial Guinea, Chad, Congo and Gabon. Nigeria is Africa’s clear oil frontrunner, with proved reserves of more than 37 billion BBLs, according to the US Department of Energy’s 2011 figures.

That said, which oil companies are pulling in the biggest profits in Africa today?

1. Sonatrach

Established in 1963, Sonatrach is Algeria’s national energy company. Its primary output is natural gas, but it also has a diversified oil programme: it engages in exploration, extraction, transport and refinement, as well as petrochemistry. As of 2010 it employed 120,000 individuals.

Sonatrach is the largest African oil company and the 11th largest oil consortium in the world. Its 2012 revenue reached a staggering $76.1 billion, roughly a third of Algeria’s GNP.

For the time being the future of Algerian oil production is secure, with proved oil reserves of roughly 12.2 billion BBLs, according to the Oil and Gas Journal’s 2010 year end estimate.


2. Sonangol Group

The Sonangol Group is an Angolan oil and gas parastatal. It was established in 1976 and has its headquarters in Luanda. The group consists of Sonangol EP and its numerous subsidiaries, which mostly have Sonangol as their primary client.

In 2010 Angola had proved oil reserves of 9.5 billion BBLs, according to figures from the Oil and Gas Journal. It is Africa’s second largest oil producer.


3. Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)

According to Forbes’s 2012 list “The World’s 25 Biggest Oil Companies”, Nigeria’s state-owned oil and gas company NNPC produces 1.4 million BBLs a day and is the 24th biggest oil company in the world.

Founded in 1977 and with its headquarters in Abuja, the NNPC today manages a joint venture between the Government and a few foreign multinationals (e.g. Royal Dutch Shell, ExxonMobil, Chevron and Agip) that engages in oil exploration and production.


4. Sasol Limited

Sasol, South Africa’s energy and chemical company, was founded in 1950 and is today based in Johannesburg. While South Africa won’t make the list of Africa’s top 10 oil-producing nations, having relatively small known oil reserves, Sasol is still a major African oil company, with exploration, development, production, marketing and sales operations on all six continents.

At present it employs 34,000 people and the Bloomberg Group puts its revenue at $21.78 billion.


5. The National Oil Corporation (NOC)

The NOC is Libya’s state-owned oil company, founded in 1970. Headquartered in Tripoli, it produces crude oil, natural gas and petrochemicals. The NOC essentially controls Libya’s oil industry, along with a number of smaller subsidiaries, which when combined account for roughly 70 percent of the country’s oil output.

Almost all of the nation’s oil comes from the Sirte Basin Province, and oil exports account for roughly 95 percent of the country’s export earnings. The Oil and Gas Journal’s 2010 estimate for proved oil reserves in Libya was 46.42 billion BBLs, giving it the greatest oil reserves on the continent, although Nigeria’s production remains higher.


6. Sudapet

Sudapet – or the Sudan National Petroleum Corporation – was founded in 1997 and is fully owned by the Sudanese Ministry for Energy and Mining. It no longer engages in oil exploitation but instead oversees the Sudanese Government’s profits from concessions to foreign operators. Its headquarters are in Khartoum.

In 2010 Sudan had proved oil reserves of about 5 billion BBLs, giving it the sixth highest store in Africa.


Other top African oil companies include the following:

  • The Arabian Gulf Oil Company (Agaco), a past subsidiary of the NOC that now operates independently out of Benghazi and engages in oil and gas exploration, production and refinement,
  • The National Petroleum Company of the Congo (SNPC), based in Brazzaville and focused on oil exploration and production,
  • Vegas Oil and Gas, an Egyptian company majoring in oil exploration,
  • Entreprise Tunisienne d’Activites Petroliere (ETAP), an oil and gas exploration and production company headquartered in Tunis,
  • Madagascar Oil, a public company engaged in oil exploration and production, and
  • Petro Gabon, an oil production firm in Gabon.

Africa’s oil fields are clearly in large part the property of local governments and are major sources of revenue and employment for their respective countries. If oil exploration continues, wise partnerships are fostered, foreign investment continues, and production techniques improve, the oil sector could grow and become an increasingly strong proponent of economic growth in Africa.

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David Okwara

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4 Responses to Top oil companies in Africa

  1. Richard Koldewey December 2, 2014 at 5:54 pm #

    Kindly advise as to which US oil companies are operating in Africa. Your list is comprehensive but there are no American companies listed.

    Thank you. I hope to hear from you.
    Richard Koldewey

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