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Country Profile of Conventional and Renewable Energies: Gabonese Republic
Last updated on 23 Oct 2006

Prepared by Maria-Evangelia Kaninia Intern from August to …, 2006 for the Department of Economic and Social Affairs Statistics Division Energy Statistics Section United Nations, New York


1 Executive Summary
The economy of Gabon has for a long time been solely based on the oil bonanza, though the recent decline in production (in spite of the efforts to reverse it with further exploration activities) will eventually oblige the government to diversify the economy. Efforts to develop the natural gas fields (associated with the oil fields) are also undertaken. The vast majority of the almost 11,000ktoe of crude oil extracted in 2004 were exported, leaving 460ktoe of oil products for domestic consumption. In terms of final energy, the largest share is occupied by biomass (~65%), although in a lesser extent than in other sub-Saharan countries. The electricity sector is privatised. The generation of electricity is shared between hydro resources and hydrocarbons, with the former accounting for 60% of the production in 2004. It is reasonable to assume that the country has further RE potential (mainly hydro and solar energy). Apparently, the priorities of the country focus on the salvation of the dwindling oil sector, since no RE-related projects have been located.


2 Introduction & Overview
2.1 Brief Country Fact
2.1.1 Geographical data
Location: Western Africa, bordering the Atlantic Ocean at the Equator, between the Republic of Congo and Equatorial Guinea Surface area: 257,667 sq km of land area ([EIU]), of which less than 2% arable land or permanent crops; plus 10,000 sq km of water surface ([CIA]) Terrain/ topography: narrow coastal plain; hilly interior; savanna in east and south Climate: tropical; always hot and humid

2.1.2 Population
Total population: approximately 1.4 million ([CIA], July 2006 estimate) Growth rate:2.1% (same source); Gabon ranks 123d in terms of human development indices ([HDR]); this placement is considerably higher than that of the neighbouring countries

2.1.3 Political situation ([CIA], [EIU])
Gabon gained independence from France in 1960. The country has been ruled during this period by two autocratic presidents, the second (and current) one having been in place for the last four decades. A nominal multi-party system and a constitution were introduced in the early nineties, however, allegations of fraud during the last elections and a weak and divided opposition depict better the political reality. The lack of actual democratic governance has not however prevented the country from enjoying a relative prosperity and stability, fueled by the abundant natural resources.

2.1.4 Economical Situation ([EIU], [CIA])
The economy is dominated by the oil sector (reserves were first discovered in the early seventies). Oil represented an estimated 48% of GDP and 81% of export earnings in 2005, despite stagnant oil production which is well below the production peak of the nineties of the nineties. The economy is therefore very vulnerable to fluctuations in international oil prices. Excluding the services sector, which is mainly associated with petroleum businesses and the public sector, the non-oil economy (mainly forestry and mining) accounts for less than 15% of the GDP ([EIU], economic structure). The long –term goal is to achieve a smooth transition to a more diversified economy. The per capita GDP stands out for being considerably higher than that of most of sub-Saharan African nations. This has supported a sharp decline in extreme poverty; yet, because of high income inequality, a large proportion of the population remains poor. Despite the abundance of natural wealth, poor fiscal management impedes the growth of the economy. The country has a record of accepting IMF or bilateral arrangements in order to face structural difficulties. The perspectives for future growth remain bleak, since the oil production levels are dropping. The country was thus unable to realise full potential gains from the recent surge in oil prices.

4/15 Vital statistics (2005 estimation, [CIA])
GDP evolution (PPP, billion $), source: [EIU], Country Data 12 11 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2
1 980 1 982 1 984 1 986 1 988 1 990 1 992 1 994 1 996 1 998 2000 2002 2004 2006

Figure 1 GDP evolution, billion $, PPP, source: [EIU]

GDP (PPP): $9.5 billion (2005 est.); $10.6 billion according to [EIU], Country Data GDP growth rate: 2.1% (2005 est.); 2.9% according to [EIU], Country Data GDP (PPP) per capita: approximately $6,800 (2005 est.) Inflation rate (consumer prices): -0.1% (2005 est.); marginally above zero according to [EIU]; indicator of the fact that domestic demand of imported products in previous years was unsustainable Main exports: crude oil, timber, mining products; to the US (more than 50%), France, China Main imports: all goods apart from oil: machinery and equipment, foodstuffs, chemicals, construction materials; from France (41%, 2005), the US, Cameroon


Figure 2 Map of Gabon, [EIU]


2.2 Overview of the energy sector
2.2.1 Production, trade and consumption of commercial energy
ktoe, source: [IEA], 2004 Crude Oil 10929 104 -10195 TPES Electricity Plants Refineries Other transformation TFC Industry Transport sector Residential Other Electricity Generated GWh 734 -734 -328 -219 -83 698 65 461 193 187 39 27 381 256 893 7 696 52 20 106 -100 -4 1 1 990 294 77 -77 995 -6 132 -32 99 27 Oil products Natural Gas 106 Hydro Combustible Renewable and Waste 995 Electricity Total

Inland Production Imports Exports


12107 104 -10523 1693 -134 -36 29 1551 515 187 787 47 1537

Table 1 Simplified energy balance table for 2004 (source: [IEA])

Gabon is a net exporter on energy resources (crude oil and refined petroleum products). The inland production of crude oil (220,000bbl/d in 2004, according to [IEA] data, Table 1) amounts to approximately 2% of the total African production or 4.3% of the sub-Saharan production for 2004. The country is self-sufficient in refining capacity. The small quantity of natural gas produced is consumed locally. The electricity sector is almost based on hydro resources and hydrocarbons (oil and natural gas). Apart from biomass, which constitutes 64% of the total final energy consumed, no other RE resource is being exploited.

Figure 3 Total final energy consumption ([IEA])

7/15 Oil
Oil production evolution, 000 bbl/d, source: [EIAc] 400.0 350.0 300.0 250.0 200.0 150.0 100.0 50.0 0.0
1 980 1 982 1 984 1 986 1 988 1 990 1 992 1 994 1 996 1 998 2000 2002 2004

Figure 4 Oil production evolution, 000 bbl/d, source: [EIAc]

[EIAa] quotes the Oil and Gas Journal (OGJ) estimate of the proven oil reserves in Gabon (2.5 billion bbl as of January 2006). Fields are located both on- and off-shore, with the offshore Rabi-Kounga field1 containing the vast majority of the reserves. Additional significant reserves are located in the offshore Tchatamba Marin and Etame fields. During the first nine months of 2006, Gabon produced 237,000bbl/d of crude oil (ranking 6th in sub-Saharan Africa and showing a trend to reverse the decrease in output). According to Figure 4, the production has declined2 significantly since the 1971 peak at 371,000bbl/d (36% from 1971 to 2006; the same production levels were again reached in 1997). The decline3 is due to maturing fields and a lack of new fields coming online ([EIAa]). [EIAc] data place the 2004 production at 238,000bbl/d (equivalent to 11,850ktoe4 per year), while [CIA] gives an estimate of 268,900bbl/day for 2005.

Operated by Shell; estimated reserves amount to 440 million bbl; production is at 150,000 bpd ([MBa]), although [EIAa] provides a probably more recent estimate of the daily production at 55,000bbl/d. 2 The graph on page 3 of [RK], although it is dated 2002, indicates the steep decline in production that is to be expected unless new fields come on-stream. 3 [MBa] reports that “at the beginning of 2005 the IEA announced that without the discovery of new fields current production will deplete Gabon’s oil reserves by 2012”. 4 Using a conversion factor of 49.8 (from bbl/d to ktoe).



Figure 5 Proven oil reserves, as estimated by the OGJ (source: [GEN])



Upstream sector - Projects: Total Gabon5 (see [TOTa]) produced around 100,000bbl/d in 2004 and 2005 (with a slight reduction of approximately 2% in 2005). The Atora onshore field contains an estimated 100 million bbl of reserves, and is currently producing 20,000bbl/d ([MBd]). According to [TOTd] “the oil production of the fields operated by Total Gabon amounted to 35.7m bbl (97,800bbl/d) in 2005, representing roughly 29% of the national crude oil production”. However, [TOTc], mentions that “net oil production (including the tax oil reverting to the government as per the production sharing agreement6), operated and non-operated, was 12.3m bbl in the first half of 2006 compared with 13.8m for the first half of 2005. First half 2006 production was affected by unscheduled stoppages on several facilities”. These quantities amount to 67,400bbl/d for 2006 and 75,600bbl/d for 2005, which is significantly less than the quantity mentioned in [TOTd] for 2005 – meaning that production resumed during the second half of the year. The reason for this divergence is unclear. Total has - in cooperation with Shell - announced a ten-year extension (until 2017) of an existing exploration and production-sharing contract (EPSC) agreement in the RabiKounga area ([EIAa], [TOTb]). This contract – which involves investments of $150m to improve the output of the field - will replace the concession license that was due to expire in 2007. Total is a major shareholder of the Rabi-Kounga field with 32.92%, second largest after Shell. The improvement works at Rabi-Kounga are confirmed by the mention in [TOTc] that “continuation of the re-development drilling works on the Rabi Kounga field with the drilling of a new series of additional development wells” was among the most significant capital expenditures. Shell Gabon7 operates (with 42.5%) the largest oil-field, Rabi-Kounga (onshore), whose current daily production is at 55,000bbl. Since 2003 Shell has to re-inject associated natural gas into the field to maintain its productive life. Its upstream assets include both exploration projects and oil production. Shell Gabon holds substantial interests in various offshore permits. Specifically, they hold PSA for the Douka Marin (which could provide an extra 10-15,000bbl/d, increasing the total national output by 56%, according to [IZF]; the agreement involves Amerada Hess and the state) and Panga Marin Blocks ([EIAa]).

5 6

The major shareholders are Elf Aquitaine (predecessor of Total) (58.3%) and the state (25%). According to which approximately 20% of the production is rendered to the government, as deduced from An offspring of Shell, which holds 75%.




Hess Corporation has been active in Gabon since 1989 and holds interests in eight onshore and offshore permits (including 10% of the Rabi-Kounga field, [TOTb]). Production in Gabon averaged 12,000bbl/d in 2004 (5.5% of the total production). Further future wells are planned ([HE04]). o Tullow ([TUL]) has interests in 15 licenses in Gabon including eight producing fields. Oil production averaged 17,500bbl/d during 2005. The company is involved in development, appraisal and work-over activities, most notably onshore at Niungo (Tullow 40%), and offshore at Etame (Tullow 7.5%) where a successful development well was drilled and brought on stream. These activities resulted both in reversing a previously declining production trend and in providing additional reserves in the existing fields. Tullow is the operator of the Kiarsseny Marin Property, which is located offshore in the Port Gentil Basin. o Perenco operates in Gabon since 1992, and currently (year to which this refers is not clarified) produces 50,000 to 60,000bbl/d from numerous onshore and offshore fields. During the last five years the company has implemented an ambitious development program, resulting in a significant increase in reserves (see [PER] for a list and map of the fields and exploration permits). o Vaalco (operator, approximately 30%), Addax Petroleum, and Sasol (approximately 30%, [SASa]) are involved in the Etame offshore field (discovered in 1998; output came online in 2002; see Figure 9). Current output at Etame field is approximately 18,000bbl/d ([EIAa], confirmed by [VAA], though [SASb] mentions that production is increased to 22,000bbl/d due to an additional well). In the summer of 2005, the International Finance Corporation (IFC) approved a revolving credit facility of $30 million for Vaalco to continue its oil exploration, development and production in the Etame block ([IFCa]). Vaalco also holds interests on the Avouma offshore field, which is currently in development phase, while the first oil is expected to come on-stream in December 2006 ([VAA]). The Ebouri field is currently under exploration. The location of the fields is presented in Figure 9. o Sasol also acquired interests to the Dussafu field in 2003 (onshore, on the border to Congo, estimated to contain 22-70m bbl). A “technical evaluation contract” was signed for this field ([IZF]). o Addax Petroleum purchased the interests of Pan-Ocean Energy in Gabon in July 2006 for $1.4 billion. The acquisition makes Addax the largest producer in Gabon, with total production of more than 100,000bbl/d ([EIAa]). The portfolio of properties that Pan-Ocean had assembled combines both offshore and onshore assets, and importantly, represents a well balanced portfolio consisting of: current production; proven, probable and possible reserves (264m bbl in total); many near-term development opportunities and significant exploration potential ([ADX]). Before this purchase, Addax had acquired (in 2004) 42.5% of a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) for the Kiarsseny Property (see Figure 10). o First Africa Oil completed, in September 2006, initial drilling in the offshore East Orovinyare oilfield (unrisked reserves amount to 421m bbl). The company expects to have the field output online by the third quarter of 2007 (the company site [FAOa] mentions the 4th quarter of 2006 as the commencement date). Initial production is expected at over 7,000bbl/d ([EIAa]; for technical description of the field, see [FAOa]). First Africa Oil also has interests in the Epaemeno Onshore field (see [FAOb]). o An Indian consortium (which includes Marvis, Oil India, Indian Oil Corporation and the Oil and Natural Gas Corporation) has signed exploration contracts with Perenco and the government ([EIAa]). o Maurel et Prom finalised, in February 2005, the acquisition of the South African company Rockover Oil & Gas Ltd, which had 27m bbl of proven plus probable and 30m bbl possible reserves, in a deal worth €54.3m. This transaction means the company owns 100% of four onshore permits (Kari, M’Bindji (which contains the majority of reserves), Ofoubou and MT2000) and 50% of the Banio permit ([MEPa]). The company will commence production at 12,000bbl/d at the end of 2007 (see [MEPb]). o A new licensing round is planned for late 2006 ([GEN]) with a view to focusing on Gabon’s unexplored deep and ultra-deep waters. Midstream sector: The Sogara refinery (Société Gabonaise de Raffinerie) - in operation since 1967 - at Port Gentil is the refining plant. It is jointly owned by the Government (25%) and a number of international firms, led by Total (44%) and Shell (17%). According to OGJ, the refinery had 17,300 bbl/d of crude distillation capacity as of January 2006 ([EIAa]), although the nominal capacity is 21,000 ([MBb]). In 2004, though, according to [IEA] data, the input quantity of crude oil was 14,700bbl/d. Inland demand has always been covered by the refining capacity, therefore Gabon is a net exporter of oil products (4,400bbl/d, [IEA], 2004), o


although it does import products in order to achieve the demanded supply mix. Oil products are shipped by sea to the capital. Downstream sector: The distribution market is privatised. The major players are, in order of magnitude: Total, Mobil Oil, Pizo and Shell ([IZF]). Sector organisation: The Oil Ministry8 superintends all regulation in the oil industry. The national oil company, Société Nationale Petrolière Gabonaise (SNPG or Petrogab) is not actively involved in development projects9. Ownership of oil and gas rights is vested in the State. Companies provide services on behalf of the State and finance hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activities. Exploration and production companies are licensed under the Exploration and Production Contract (ESPC) established by Law No 14/82 in January 1983. Gabon was a member of OPEC until 1996, when it left citing the high annual dues required by the organisation as its reason ([MBa]). The tax system within Gabon encourages foreign investment; providing, for example, for tax-exemptions for certain exploration activities. Gabon also strives towards greater transparency within the oil industry. In addition, Gabon joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) to increase transparency in oil and mining payments from companies to governments ([EIAa]).
Refinery output 2003, [EIAb] Gasoline Jet fuel Kerosene Distillate Residual LPG Unspecified 000 bbl/d 1.61 1.17 0.44 4.29 5.70 0.31 1.18 ktoe 80.2 58.3 21.9 213.6 283.9 15.4 58.8 % 11.0 8.0 3.0 29.2 38.8 2.1 8.0 Imports - Exports 000 bbl/d -0.49 0.02 0.17 0.51 -3.80 0.35 0.95 ktoe -24.4 1.0 8.5 25.4 -189.2 17.4 47.3 Consumption 000 bbl/d 1.00 1.43 0.53 4.91 1.96 0.66 2.10 ktoe 49.8 71.2 26.4 244.5 97.6 32.9 104.6 % 7.9 11.4 4.2 39.0 15.6 5.2 16.7

Total 14.70 732.1 100.0 -2.29 -114.0 12.59 627.0 100.0 Table 2 Shares of petroleum products, by type, in refinery output, imports and total consumption, 200310 source: [EIAb] Natural gas Gabon had proven natural gas reserves of 1.2 trillion cubic feet (tcf) in 2006 ([EIAa], OGJ quoted). In 2004, Gabon produced and consumed domestically 3.5 billion cubic feet (bcf) of natural gas11. This quantity amounts to 91ktoe, which is 14% less than the quantity reported by [IEA]. The majority of the natural gas output is used in the generation of electricity and as input to the refining process. In 2004, Total was awarded the first natural gas exploration license under a PSA (Production Sharing Agreement). The exploration area is located between the capital, Libreville, and Port Gentil. Any natural gas discovered will be used to enhance oilfield performance (by re-injection), or for electricity production at Port Gentil.
bcf ktoe 2003,[EIAb] gross production 75.9 1974.2 vented flared 56.5 1469.0 reinjected 12.7 330.5 marketed production 6.7 174.5 dry production 3.2 82.7 dry consumption 3.2 82.7 Table 3 Natural gas balance table, 2003, [EIAb] Apparently, this appellation is short for the “Ministère des Mines, de l’Energie, du Pétrole et des Ressources hydrauliques”. 9 According to [PRF], a document published by an organisation politically opposed to the government, this company does not exist any more, having transferred the assets it owned to the state (page 8). [IZF] confirms that the state company was dissolved in 1993. 10 It is reasonable to assume that the ratio between the types of products remained approximately the same for 2004. 11 Corresponds to the dry production entry of Table 3.


Projects: In December 2005, Perenco signed a natural gas contract with SEEG. Under the contract terms, Perenco will supply natural gas to SEEG power plants in Libreville and Port Gentil. Proposed pipelines will be built by Perenco in order to transport natural gas from company fields to the power plants ([EIAa]). Electricity According to [EIAc], the electricity generation capacity in 2004 consisted of 244MW (59%) of thermal and 170MW (41%) of hydro plants:
Electricity generation capacity by type, MW, [EIAc] 450 400 350 300 250 200 150 100 50 0
1 980 1 982 1 984 1 986 1 988 1 990 1 992 1 994 1 996 1 998 2000 2002 2004

hydro thermal

Figure 6 Generation capacity (MW) evolution, [EIAc]

The amount of electricity generated amounted to 1.5b kWh (41% or 640m kWh from thermal plants; 59% or 900m kWh from hydro plants). This means that the hydro plants operate at a greater utilisation rate, covering the base load (see Table 4).
Electricity generation by type, million kWh, [EIAc] 1,600 1,400 1,200 1,000 800 600 400 200 0
1 980 1 982 1 984 1 986 1 988 1 990 1 992 1 994 1 996 1 998 2000 2002 2004

hydro thermal

Figure 7 Generation by type of plant in million kWh, [EIAc] 2004, [EIAc] MW m kWh utilisation rate (%) thermal 244 636 29.7 hydro 170 900 60.4 combined 414 1536 42.3 Table 4 Utilisation rates for the electricity generation plants, by type ([EIAc])


The Nice Port station (60MW) and Owendo (45MW) are the major thermal plants. According to [MBc], 210MW of the thermal plants are fueled with natural gas and the remaining with heavy fuel oil. The primary hydroelectric sites are located at Tchimbele (69MW) and Kinguele (58MW) on the M’Bei River as well as Poubara on the Ogooue River ([EIAa], [MBc]). According to the [EIAc] data, the loss percentage is steady at about 7% (deemed too low). Sector organisation: The electricity sector is operated by the Société d'Electricité et d’Eaux du Gabon (SEEG). Since 1997, Veolia (a French water and power utility, formerly Vivendi) has owned 51% of SEEG12 (concession for 20 years). The remaining shares of SEEG are owned by SEEG employees (5%) and the public (44%). Projects: According to an IFC report ([IFCb]), IFC has also been requested to extend a partial credit guarantee (PCG) to SEEG on a loan of up to €35 million that will be provided by a syndication of local banks. The loan will allow funding part of SEEG investments planned for 2005-2010. Those investments include adding generation capacity in the form of thermal plants and improving electricity transmission and distribution networks.

2.2.2 Access to electricity/ network
The [WRI] estimate of the percentage of population with access to electricity in 2000 was 31%. [EIAa] mentions though that almost half of the population is connected to the national grid (October 2006). SEEG supplies electricity to approximately 520,000 people in Gabon, primarily in the three major cities: Libreville, Port Gentil and Franceville. Electricity rates have fallen since Veolia led efforts to improve the country’s generating capacity and its transmission/distribution network ([MBc]). Since signing the privatisation concession in 1997, Veolia has declared its committed approach to increase connections to the water and electricity services by 50% ([VEO]).

3 Analysis of Renewable Energy Sector
The information on the RE sector is extremely scarce: No information on the official policy regarding RE development has been located, leading to the conclusion that the government’s efforts are focused on fortifying the oil sector.

3.1 Hydro
Gabon has approximately 6,000 MW of undeveloped hydroelectric potential ([MBc]). Apart from this vague reference, no information on the expansion of the generating capacity has been found.

3.2 Solar
It is reasonably expected that Gabon has potential to develop micro solar projects, as is the case in other (even with far less financial capabilities). However, no leads to such projects were found.

3.3 Biomass and other combustible renewable resources
Biomass accounts for 8% of the inland primary energy supply and 64% of the total final energy consumption ([IEA] data, 2004). The main forms in which biomass is consumed is as fuel wood or charcoal (which constitutes an important fuel particularly for urban dwellers). The data presented in Figure 8 ([WRI]) shows a tendency for wood fuel consumption to increase at an almost steady pace. The energy equivalent of the quantity indicated by [WRI] for 2004, though, is far less than what is reported by [IEA].

The privatisation was the first in sub-Saharan Africa with a commitment from the private operator to future investment in order to upgrade and modernize equipment ([MBc]).


Wood Fuel production (000 cubic meters), source: [WRI] 550




350 1980













Figure 8 Wood fuel production, source: [WRI], assumed average wood density 0.5t/cubic meter

4 Sources
[EIU] Economist Intelligence Unit,, Country Profile and Data [CIA] World Factbook, [HE04] Hess Corporation Exploration and Production, [EIAa] Country Analysis Brief, updated in Oct-06, [EIAb] Energy balance table for 2003, [EIAc] International data time series, [MBa] Mbendi portal on Africa, Gabon Oil Sector,, link [MBb] same, Gabon oil refining, link [MBc] same, Gabon Electrical Power, link [MBd] same, Gabon Crude Petroleum and Natural Gas Extraction, link [TOTa] Total Gabon Production Statistics, [TOTb] “Elf Gabon signs Extension of Rabi-Kounga License with Gabonese Republic”, Apr-23 2003,, link [TOTc] “Total Gabon: financial results for the first half of 2006”, Sep-12 2006,, link [TOTd] “Total Gabon: financial results for fiscal year 2005”, Mar-21 2006, link [PER] Perenco Gabon,, link [TUL] Tullow Oil,, link [IEA] Energy Balances of non-OECD countries, 2006 [RK] Presentation of the Rabi-Kounga oil-field in Gabon, Nov-2005, link [GEN] Portal on the Energy sector in Gabon, [WRI], World Resources Information, Earthtrends [IRI] Territorial dispute between Gabon and Equatorial Guinea, Feb-28 2006,, link [VAA] Vaalco Energy, Properties, [IFCa] International Finance Corporation, “IFC Invests $30 Million in VAALCO Gabon”,, Jun-13 2005, link [IFCb] link [SASa] Sasol Oil,, Feb-04 2004, link [SASb] Oct-6 2004, link [ADX] Addax Petroleum,


[FAOa] First Africa Oil, Gabon Epaemeno Onshore field, [FAOb] First Africa Oil, Gabon Epaemeno Onshore field, [MEPa] Maurel et Prom, Gabon activities,, link [MEPb] Résultats du 1er semestre 2006, Oct-19 2006, link [PRF] Pétrole et renaissance économique au Gabon, Rapport de la Commission Economique du BDPGabon Nouveau, [IZF] “L’évolution du secteur pétrolier”,, link [VEO] Veolia Water,

5 Annex

Figure 9 The offshore fields of Vaalco Energy, source: [VAA]


Figure 10 Kiarsseny Property map, [ADX]