Petroleum Exploration in Morocco started early in the last century and covers four major periods:

The period between 1912 and 1957 has known petroleum exploration in the Rharb Basin at the vicinity oil seeps. This led to the discovery of the Ain Hamra oil pool in 1923.This period 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 and  in 1955 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 drawn 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 1986, 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, 91 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.

From 1986 to 1999, the oil shock in 1986 had a major impact on exploration activities, which were virtually halted.

From 2000 to 2016, The Hydrocarbon Law was amended in 2000 providing Oil and Gas investors with some of the most attractive fiscal terms and has resulted in attracting more international oil companies in the hydrocarbon sector.

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.

The missions of the National Office of Hydrocarbons and Mines, established by law since its creation, are as follows

  • Contribute to the socio-economic development of Morocco through the efficient development of mineral resources (excluding phosphates) and hydrocarbons;
  • To conduct, through an appropriate technico-economic approach, research and exploration of hydrocarbon and mineral deposits
  • Develop a proactive and dynamic partnership;
  • Build national expertise in the oil and mining sector.

To date, 46 827 Km² of 3D seismic and 158 825 Km of 2D seismic data have been acquired offshore and 43 exploratory wells were drilled.

Also, 51 976 Km of 2D seismic and 2 076 Km² of 3D seismic data have been acquired onshore and 295 exploratory wells were drilled.

The analysis of the database 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.

Generally speaking, Morocco is underexplored in terms of petroleum exploration and is considered as frontier zones (only 338 wells were drilled both in onshore and offshore Morocco). However, it is important to note that 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 plays and leads.