Results from the tenth offshore licensing round first launched by Gabon last year finally came rolling in with companies including oil majors, independents and one privately-owned explorer the eventual winners of new license blocks.

Impact, a UK independent formed in 2009 with a declared African focus, was awarded three offshore blocks in the Gabon round: B7, D13 and D14. The explorer underlined that it was the only small private company invited by the Gabonese government to fully participate in the negotiation process and to be awarded acreage, while all the other companies were large independents and majors. Impact’s new blocks followed a US?$55 million fund-raising round through a private placing of new shares to both new and existing investors.

Etienne Ngoubou, Gabon’s Minister for Oil and Hydrocarbons, provided an update on the tenth round for the allocation of deep and ultra-deep blocks. According to Reuters the new round was expected to attract at least $1.1 billion in investment to the Gabon oil sector.

Detailing its award for F15, Noble said the acreage – its first entry to Gabon – lies approximately 140 km (87 miles) offshore, covers more than 2,700?sq?km, (1,042 sq miles) with water depths ranging from 2,300-3,000 m (7,500-9,900 ft), and comes with a 4-year seismic acquisition commitment and an option for future exploration drilling. Noble has 60% equity in the exploration, exploitation and production sharing contract for the block, and Australia’s Woodside 40%.

Woodside chief executive Peter Coleman said the acreage builds on recent acquisitions in Tanzania and Morocco. “This opportunity reflects our disciplined and strategic approach to studying regional petroleum systems and is a good fit for our core capabilities in deepwater exploration,” he stated.

Malaysia’s Petronas signed its PSC for block F14 covering 2,500 sq km (965 sq miles) in water depths from 2,000-3,000 m (6,562-9,843 ft). Petronas, via Petronas Carigali International E&P, will hold 80% of the F14 license equity, with the rest held by the government of Gabon.

Marathon Oil’s G13 deepwater pre-salt block lies 80 km (50 miles) offshore covering 275,000 acres (1,112 sq km) and named Tchicuate, featuring water depths between 990-2,515?m (3,250-8,250 ft), and close to proven oil discoveries in shallow water, Marathon said. It was awarded 100% of the block as operator, although the government has a right to back in for 20% in the event of a discovery.

Last year Marathon was one of the partners in the Total-operated Diaman 1B discovery in the Diaba block offshore Gabon, which encountered 50-55 m (164-180 ft) of pay, after being drilled in a water depth of 1,729 m (5,671 ft). Cobalt was the other partner in that discovery, along with the government of Gabon.

Mitch Little, Marathon Oil’s vice-president for international and offshore exploration and production, stated: “The addition of the Tchicuate block aligns well with our strategic focus of capturing quality and material resource in proven and emerging oil provinces, and adds depth to the company’s exploration portfolio.”