Flaring at the Chinguetti oil discovery in Mauritania.
Flaring at the Chinguetti oil discovery in Mauritania.

Woodside Petroleum is returning its exploration focus to Africa, a region it once saw as a key plank of its future only to then change tack and embark on a wholesale exit.

Phil Loader, who joined Woodside as executive vice president, global exploration, 10 months ago, has flagged a focus on the southern half of Africa, incorporating the east coast region where some of the world's biggest gas discoveries have been made over the past three years.

Addressing the Woodside investor day in Sydney, Mr Loader also highlighted offshore regions off northern South America and off Canada's east coast as art of his efforts to build "a balanced global footprint".

Woodside to squeeze more from less

The return to Africa would continue the transformation of Woodside's exploration strategy since Peter Coleman took over as chief executive three years ago.

Since then Woodside acquired acreage off Myanmar, Ireland and New Zealand while expanding its footprint in a promising gas play in Peru.

Mr Coleman has previously talked about the big size but also high cost of buying into some of the gas discoveries off East Africa.

His predecessors at Woodside built and then dismantled an African business headlined by the Chinguetti oil field off Mauritania but also including a big acreage position in Libya.

Woodside is in the throes of the biggest seismic work program ever undertaken in the Carnarvon Basin off the Pilbara coast as part of long-term efforts to find gas to extend the life of the five-train North West Shelf LNG operation.

The West Australian

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