Petroleum Exploration in Morocco started early in the last century and covers five major periods:
- The period between 1900 and 1928 saw petroleum exploration in the Rharb Basin at the vicinity oil seeps. This led to the discovery of the Ain Hamra oil pool in 1923.
- The period from 1928 to 1958 saw the creation of BRPM (Bureau de Recherches et d’Exploitations Minières) in 1928, and the SCP (Société Chérifienne de Pétrole) in 1929 that carried out most of petroleum exploration activities.
Seismic reflection techniques were first introduced, in the Rharb and Prerif basins in 1935. It is not until 1955 that this tool was used to explore the Essaouira, Souss and Guercif basins. Oil and gas discoveries were made in the Prerif Ridges and in the Sidi Fili Trend. Cumulative production during this period reached 8 million barrels of oil.
- From 1958 to 1981, the Hydrocarbon Law was passed and attracted international investments. Exploration by BRPM and its partners was extended to cover most of the basins of Morocco. Wells drilled during this period revealed commercial oil and gas accumulations in the Essaouira and Rharb Basins. By the end of 1981, cumulative production was 9 million barrels of oil and 35 BCF of gas.
- From 1981 to 2003, ONAREP (Office National de Recherches et d’Exploitations Pétrolières) was created by the moroccan government, with a mandate to explore for hydrocarbons in Morocco both by itself and jointly with foreign petroleum companies. Since the creation of ONAREP, 85 wells have been drilled, 50 of which were jointly with international companies. This activity led to the discovery of the gas/condensate field at Meskala (Essaouira) and of several biogenic gas accumulations in the Rharb Basin.
The Hydrocarbon Law was amended in 1992 and in 2000 providing Oil and Gas investors with some of the most attractive fiscal terms available internationally.
- In 2003, ONHYM was created as a merger of ONAREP and BRPM, beginning a new era with a dynamic strategy and improved synergy to adequately assess both the Hydrocarbon and Mining Potential of Morocco.
To date, 27 084.11 Km² of 3D seismic and 153 503.70 Km of 2D seismic data have been acquired offshore and 36 exploratory wells were drilled. Also, 49 227.31 Km of 2D seismic and 1 634.87 Km² of 3D seismic data have been acquired onshore and 273 exploratory wells were drilled.
Close analysis of success, and failure, of various exploration programs undertaken in Morocco demonstrate the attractiveness of the hydrocarbon opportunities of the country and suggest new hydrocarbon exploration concepts as well as new prospects awaiting for drilling.
Morocco is underexplored in terms of petroleum exploration and is considered as frontier zones.
The analysis of the data base of the existing wells underlines three important facts:
- The number of hydrocarbon exploratory wells is extremely low in most basins;
- Many wells did not reach their objectives due to technical problems, or were spudded off structure;
- The number of exploration concepts tested so far is very limited.
Several viable petroleum systems, with good hydrocarbon potential, exist in Moroccan sedimentary basins.
Recent studies, integrating regional synthesis studies with substantial volumes of seismic data, particularly in the offshore, have generated new exploration concepts. These studies have also defined many structures that wait to be drilled.