With estimated proven reserves of 1.5 billion barrels, Congo is sub-Saharan Africa's fifth largest oil producer after Nigeria, Angola, Gabon, and Equatorial Guinea. The majority of Congolese crude production is located offshore and is heavily reliant on foreign personnel and technology.
Congo's national oil company (NOC), the Société Nationale des Pétroles du Congo (SNPC), regulates upstream operations, while Hydro-Congo controls downstream operations. Congolese production sharing agreements (PSAs), which have been used primarily since 1994, are intended to insure a constant minimum flow of revenue to the government, commensurate with similar agreements between other regional oil exporting states and major oil companies. Under Congo's PSAs, foreign partners carry out exploration and development during an agreed period of time (usually three years for each phase), financing all investment costs and recovering investments when production begins. Because all major operators in Congo have signed PSAs for their respective field developments, approximately one-third of the oil produced goes directly to the government and is sold by SNPC on the state's behalf.
Congo's crude oil production has quadrupled over the past two decades, from 65,000 bbl/d in 1980 to an average of 280,000 bbl/d in 2000. Production has declined recently, largely due to lower production at mature fields and delays in bringing new fields online.
Oil is exported through Congo's main port, Pointe-Noire, which has little spare capacity and needs expansion. Although most of Congo's crude oil exports are destined for Western Europe (mainly France) and the United States, the country has sought to increase its sales to Asian markets.
- Oil production: 267,100 bbl/day (2005 est.)
- Oil proved reserves: 93.5 million bbl (1 January 2002)
- Natural gas proved reserves: 90.61 billion cu m (1 January 2005 est.)
- Through its local subsidiary, Elf-Congo, Total S.A. (France) is the leading oil producer and foreign investor in Congo, producing approximately two-thirds of all Congolese oil output. Total (51 percent interest) operates Congo's largest field, N'Kossa, located on the Haute Mer permit. Crude production in the Congo is expected to increase in 2008 by 90,000 barrels per day with the exploitation of the Moho-Bilondo Field. The exploitation of Moho-Bilondo by Total is expected to increase Congo's production from 240,000 barrels/day to 330,000 barrels
- Agip (Italy), the second largest producer in Congo, produces approximately 25 percent of Congolese oil output. Agip operates the following fields (interest percent): Djambala (65 percent), Foukanda (100 percent), Kitina (55 percent), Loango (50 percent), Mwafi (100 percent), and Zatchi (65 percent).
- Twenty two development wells are planned for the M'Boundi field, where a subsidiary of Maurel & Prom (France) discovered approximately 250 million barrels of new reserves in mid-2004. In March 2005, the subsidiary announced that the field's Well 1001 tested at an initial flow rate of 4,000 bbl/d of oil equivalent, while the nearby Well 1303 encountered an unproductive reservoir. As a result of new finds, Maurel and Prom's subsidiary hopes to increase production from 25,000 bbl/d in 2004 to 73,000 bbl/d by 2007.
- A July 2004 release by Burren Energy (UK) also announced a discovery in the M'Boundi field, with a well testing at 1,540 bbl/d of oil. In January 2005, the company's M'Boundi Well MB 704 tested at an initial flow rate of 3,900 bbl/d. Burren produces 35,000 barrels per day of oil from its assets in Congo.
- In January 2005, Heritage Oil (Canada) announced that its first commercial well in the Kouakouala field, Well KKL 401, tested at an initial flow rate of 1,600 bbl/d. Plans include connecting the well to the field's existing production facilities, as well as the 12,000-bbl/d export pipeline from the field to the Djeno Export Terminal. Kouakouala, which began production in May 2000, has seen its production decline from 1,100 bbl/d to 900 bbl/d at the three wells currently in operation.
- Angola and the Republic of the Congo created the Zone d'Interet Commun (ZIC, Common Interest Zone) in March 2003. The ZIC joint development area, based in Brazzaville, includes portions of Block 14 (Angola), operated by ChevronTexaco (US), and the Haute Mer Block (Congo), operated by Total. Congo and Angola share revenues equally from exploration and production occurring in the ZIC. In December 2004, ChevronTexaco announced a "significant discovery" in the joint development zone, with the Lianzi-1 exploration well encountering two oil bearing reservoirs, one flowing at a rate of more than 5,000 bbl/d.
- In January 2005, Canada's Gulf of Guinea Petroleum Corporation (GGPC) was awarded the tender as operator of the Marine XI oil concession, which holds several oil fields including Loubana, Mpouli, Koga, Ngongo, Viodo-Moedji, and Doukdaka South.
- In March 2005, the Congolese government announced the signing of two offshore exploration and production agreements with Sinopec (China) for the Marine XII and High Sea C blocks.
- Murphy Oil Corporation maintains an 85 percent interest in both Mer Profonde Sud (MPS) and Mer Profonde Nord (MPN) with SNPC holding the balance. Water depths on MPS and MPN range from 450 to 6,900 feet with total acreage of 1.8 million acres. MPS's Azurite Marine 1 exploration well encountered over 160 feet of net oil pay in January 2003, leading to predictions that the area could contain over 100 million barrels of oil. In March 2005, however, Murphy Oil announced that neither its Saphir Marine 1 nor its Onyx Marine 1 encountered significant hydrocarbons.
- Tullow Oil holds an 11% interest in one onshore production licence which covers the M'Boundi field. Development work is continuing on the field, which has demonstrated continued growth in both reserves and production. An infill drilling programme is continuing and has been enhanced by the recent arrival of a fifth rig. By January 2007 there were 58 wells were on stream. Average gross production for 2006 was over 55,000 bopd.