Chariot Oil & Gas plans to drill its first well in at least three years in 2017 off Morocco as African oil as the closing months of 2016 optimism in the industry turn into new projects.

Offshore drilling on the continent matched an all-time low in September, with just nine active rigs, according to Baker Hughes data. From that trough, the deal hatched by OPEC in Algiers at the end of the month to cut the group’s output for the first time in eight years is adding to optimism that Africa is ripe for a comeback.

“From September we’ve seen a definite warming,” said Chariot Chief Executive Officer Larry Bottomley, who sees a revival of interest in exploration in Africa.

Consultants Wood Mackenzie said it’s encouraging that some smaller operators are looking to drill wells and expects activity to pick up in countries such as Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique. Nevertheless, African explorers are coming to terms with “lower for longer” prices, according to the Chariot CEO.

The continent’s total rig count fell to a five-year low of 77 in September, with crude still trading at less than half its mid-2014 level. Oil has broken the $50 a barrel mark as Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) have cut supplies, though Iran is causing some market disruption this week.

On Monday Brent crude futures LCOc1 were trading at $56.70 per barrel, down 40 cents, or 0.7 percent, from their previous close.

US West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures CLc1 were trading at $53.59 per barrel, down 40 cents, or 0.74 percent.

“Any price support would be a positive for African E&Ps” and for the outlook for projects in East Africa, according to Will Hares, an analyst at Bloomberg Intelligence. “Drilling companies have been hit extremely hard, especially offshore drillers.”

“Exciting” activity is building for 2017 in areas such as Mauritania, Morocco and Senegal, says Peter Elliott, director of London-based consultants NVentures.

Sound Energy, which has increased more than fourfold in value during 2016 after making a natural-gas discovery in Morocco, expects the results of a second well in the North African country within weeks, Vice-President for Business Development William Holland says.

Exploration in East Africa began to ramp up a decade ago, with an average of 16 exploration wells a year from 2006 to 2014, according to Alasdair Reid, upstream research analyst at Wood Mackenzie. Activity peaked in 2012 when the industry spent over $2 billion completing 27 exploration wells and discovered nearly 14 billion barrels of oil equivalent. There was a marked slowdown in 2014, when exploration spend fell by 70 percent, he said.

“The exploration picture in East Africa is symptomatic of the wider industry response to the lower oil price, where we’ve seen a retrenchment away from higher risk, frontier basins,” says Reid. Despite huge gas discoveries in Tanzania and Mozambique, “the long lead times, lack of a domestic market for gas and high upfront capex are potential deterrent to new entrants”, he said. Licensing rounds in the region have also failed to attract a large number of explorers.

Tullow Oil, a British oil producer focused on Africa, in 2014 began to shift its focus to cheaper onshore exploration, mainly in Kenya, when crude prices began their decline. The company is Europe’s best performing oil stock this year and on Friday Tullow said increasing output from its TEN project in Ghana should help it pay down its $4.7 billion of debt.

Chariot has concentrated on “protecting the portfolio, protecting the cash” through the downturn, Bottomley said. The company has also reduced its board and technical team to save costs, he said.

Some activity still endures. Tullow has exploration plans in Kenya and Royal Dutch Shell is looking to drill off Tanzania, according to Wood Mackenzie’s Reid.

In November Exxon said it discovered an oil field off the Nigerian coast that may hold as much as 1 billion barrels of crude, worth $53 billion at current prices. The company’s Mesurado-1 deepwater well in Liberia due to be drilled next month could also bring some of the spotlight back to Africa, Hares said.

“If successful this could be largest oil discovery of the year,” he said.

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