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History of oil exploration in Madagascar

This history has been traced in three (3) stages, during the colonial period, the period before the existence of OMNIS and that since the creation of OMNIS..

Colonial period

During the colonial period, there are two (2) sequential parts, the part from 1901 to 1917 and that from 1936 to 1960 and we describe below how the exploration activities in Madagascar were carried out and what were the results?

1901 to 1917

The existence of unconventional oil deposits was recognized by an American in 1901, namely the bituminous sandstone deposit of Bemolanga and that of heavy oil at Tsimiroro.

At the time, exploration work was concentrated in the Tsimiroro region and undertaken by American companies resulting in the drilling of twelve (12) wells which were carried out by: three (3) wells by the company Madagascar Oil Development Ltd from 1909 to 1913; five (05) wells by Sakalava Prorietary Fields Ltd from 1913 to 1917 and four (04) wells by Betsiriry Proprietary Oil Fields Ltd from 1914 to 1917.

From 1918 to 1935, exploration work was interrupted and did not resume until 1936, the year marking the start of the second part of exploration work during the
colonial period.

1936 to 1939

Exploration work was monopolized by the French company Petroleum Exploitation and Research Company (PERC) , a subsidiary of the French company ELF Aquitaine. SERP drilled (05) shallow wells or coredrills (T1, T2, MRK-1, ANA and Andrakaraka) and one deep well 1283 m deep (Ambohidranomora-1).

1939 to 1960

Exploration activities were monopolized by the French company Madagascar Petroleum Company "MPC", also a subsidiary of the French company ELF Aquitaine. MPC cooperated with the “ Department of Mines” (DM ) which was the subcontracting drilling company. The SM drilled, in 1948, on behalf of MPC, three (03) shallow wells or coredrills (T3, T4 and P5) in the Tsimiroro region.

1950 to 1960

MPC used new exploration techniques (Magnetic, Gravimetric, Telluric and analogue seismic) in the Tsimiroro region and also in all the sedimentary basins of Madagascar.

Thus, for the unconventional oil objective, four (04) deep wells (BLT-1, BLT-2, BLT-3 and MRB-1) were drilled by the same company - even in the region of Tsimiroro and 285 Shallow wells were drilled in the bituminous sandstone deposit of Bemolanga for the evaluation of reserves, in addition a quarry was opened in zone VI, called Driez quarry to exploit sample tonnage of bituminous sandstone to supply the The pilot unit for testing bitumen extraction by hot water and by the in situ process, the test was negative.

Related to the conventional oil objective (light oil), SPM was able to drill 31 deep exploration wells including: 29 in the Morondava basin and gas production test in the Sikily-1 well, one (01) well in the Majunga basin (Tuilerie-1) and one (01) well in the Ambilobe basin (Ambilobe-1), these two wells were found to show signs of oil and significant numbers of gas, respectively.

Period before OMNIS

From 1960 to 1975 :

From 1960, the MPC released the research or exploration of hydrocarbons in Madagascar and launched an international call for tenders materialized by the entry of five (05) internationally renowned oil exploration companies, as listed in the table below with their respective concessions and the corresponding work carried out:

Company Permit Implementation
Israle National Oil Company ( ISRAEL NOC ) Offshore Ambilobe and Vohemar Seismic
TENNECO Offshore East Coast Basin Seismic and drilling of 01 wells
FRONTIER PETROLEUM Onshore Morombe – Andavadoaka, Morondava basin Seismic and drilling of 01 wells
EASON OIL Offshore Tuléar Androka, Morondava Basin Geological and geophysical study
CHEVRON OIL Onshore Ankazoabe and Tongobory and Tsimiroro Morondava basin Seismic and 05 wells and 09 coredrill ( TS series wells )
CONOCO/PMC(Consortium) Onshore Morondava Central basin Seismic and drilling of 01 wells
Onshore Ansalova, Morondava basin Seismic and drilling of 01 wells
Onshore Port Bergé, Majunga basin Seismic and drilling of 01 wells
AGIP/ESSO (Consortium) Offshore Majunga and Cap St. André, Majunga basin  Seismic and drilling of 03 wells
COPETMA / TEXAS GULF (Consortium) Offshore Morondava Seismic and drilling of 03 wells
Oil explotation activity 1976 – 1995

A total of 15 deep wells were drilled in which evidence of oil and / or gas was encountered.

During this period, the search and / or exploration of hydrocarbons in Madagascar had been governed by the petroleum code and the obtaining of the perimeter or the surface of the land where the research or exploration work had been carried out under contract. concessionaire regime oil tanker.

Period since the creation of OMNIS: 1976 to Present

In order to continue research or exploration activities for hydrocarbon resources in Madagascar, a state body called " National Military Office for Strategic Industries " known by the acronym OMNIS , was created 1976 by Ordinance No. 76 -007 of March 20, 1976.

Period 1976 to 1995

Hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation works were governed by the 1 st Petroleum Code, Law No. 80-001 of June 6, 1980.

The table below summarizes the main activities of this period:

Period Implementation Results
1976 – 1995

Unconventional oil
(heavy and extra heavy oil)

Exploration of the Tsimiroro heavy oil deposit byOMNIS and the Canadian D&S Consulate : drilling of 31 wells and evaluation of reserves.

Determination of exploitable reserves and “Techno-economic feasibility studies” of Tsimiroro exploitation
Exploration of the Bemolanga bituminous sandstone deposit by OMNIS and the German consultant Klockner: drilling of 134 wells and evaluation of reserves Determination of exploitable reserves and technical-economic feasibility study of Bemolanga mining

Conventional Hydrocarbons
(light oil)

Promotion of oil exploration conducted by OMNIS with Consultants

1981 : 1 st Call for tenders with PETROCONSULTANT.

1988 : 2è call for Tender with Consultant BEICIP

  • Association contracts with MAXUS and BHP
  • Risky Service Contract with SHELL
  • Association contracts with Occidental Oil, Mobil Oil, AGIP, AMOCO


1995: 3rd Call for tenders with the consultant ROBERTSON SPT

Entry of (8) oil exploration companies operating in the Morondava, Majunga and Ambilobe basins carrying out geological & geophysical work and drilling: 

  • 5 compagnies : Occidental Oil – Mobil Oil – AGIP – AMOCO – PETROCANADA
  • 3 compagnies : MAXUS – BHP – SHELL


11 wells drilled and the majority of the wells exhibited significant indications of hydrocarbons and discoveries of 41 ° API light oil in the Manandaza-1 well (Shell in 1991) and gas in the Manambolo-Ouest-1 well ( PetroCanada in 1987). Company work completed according to Contracts, no commercial discovery and company abandonment

  • No company
Oil exploration activities 1976 – 1995

Period 1996 to 2016

Hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation works were governed by the 2nd Petroleum Code , Law N ° 096 -18 of 04 Sept. 1996 .

The table below summarizes the main activities of this period:

Period 2016 to 2021

Occupation of 03 onshore contractual perimeters (OYSTER, MOSA, AMICOH) and 06 offshore (MAREX, PURA VIDA, BPEM_Ampasindava, BPEM_Majunga North, BPEM_Majunga South, BPEM_Cap Saint André) with 221 offshore blocks and 625 free offshore.