Mauritania's offshore region became a new oil province with Woodside Petroleum Ltd's Chinguetti, Banda, Tiof and Tevet discoveries between 2001 and 2004 which have oil reserves of several hundred million barrels. In February 2006, Mauritania began producing its first oil from the Chinguetti oilfield , which is located offshore 56 miles southwest of Nouakchott. The field has estimated proven reserves of 123 million barrels of oil. The field was producing around 15,000 barrels per day (bbl/d), but output was expected to reach capacity of 75,000 bbl/d by the end of 2006.
The Mauritanian government created the national oil company, Société Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures(SMH), in 2004.
In March 2005, the Mauritanian government created a separate ministry of oil and energy to handle the energy portfolio. The ministry is headed by Mohamed Aly Ould Sidi Mohamed. In 2005, Mauritania imported 24,000 bbl/d of petroleum products, as its refinery is not in use.
- Oil production: 75,000 bbl/day (2006 est.)
- Oil proved reserves: 1 billion bbl (2005)
- Woodside Petroleum operates the Chinguetti field with a 47.38 percent interest and is joined with partners Hardman Resources (19.01 percent), Mauritanian-government controlled Société Mauritanienne des Hydrocarbures (12 percent), BG Group (10.23 percent), Premier Oil (8.12 percent) and Roc Oil Company Ltd (3.25 percent).
In addition to Chinguetti field, Mauritania possesses several other promising offshore oil and gas fields. The Tiof oilfield, which is located 16 miles north of the Chinguetti field, may contain up to 350 million barrels of oil. The Tiof-6 exploration well was drilled successfully in February 2005. Woodside and its partners believe that the field may start producing at 50,000 bbl/d in mid-2007, with production potentially rising to 150,000 bbl/d in 2008.
- The Banda field, located 12 miles east of Nouakchott, may contain natural gas reserves of 3-5 trillion cubic feet (Tcf).
- UK-based Dana Petroleum is working with LNG operators to determine development options for the Pelican field. The Pelican natural gas field is estimated to hold 1 to 1.5 Tcf.
- With Mauritania's best offshore blocks under contract, other companies have lined up to explore onshore blocks, particularly in the Taoudeni Basin in the northeastern part of the Mauritanian desert. Spain's Repsol, China National Petroleum Co. and Woodside Petroleum are among the companies that have been awarded Taoudeni blocks.
- In January 2005, France's Total signed two production sharing contracts there, covering nearly 22,394 square miles.
- Tullow Oil holds interests in eight blocks offshore Mauritania, the majority of which were acquired as part of the Hardman Resources takeover. These blocks cover nearly 47,000 sq km, extend along 750 km of coastline and include most of the prospective offshore basin area. Since 2000, over 30 exploration, appraisal and development wells have been drilled. Of the exploration wells, Chinguetti, Tiof, Tevet and Banda all resulted in significant oil and gas discoveries, while the Pelican well discovered gas (with the possibility of a downdip oil leg). Exploration success to date is roughly 50% at the Miocene stratigraphic level and 25% at the Cretaceous.