African governments and major international oil explorers are meeting in Angola to discuss to how to exploit offshore oil from West and Central African nations.
Angola: sub-Saharan Africa's No 2 oil producer
Discussions will centre on the Gulf of Guinea, which includes Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Cameroon, Gabon, Angola and the Republic of Congo.
"The Gulf of Guinea has potentially the largest oil reserves as far as offshore deep water oil is concerned," said conference organiser Obiajulu Okuh.
The government of host nation Angola has been criticised by international donors for failing to stop corrupt officials pocketing oil revenues.
The International Monetary Fund (IMF) believes $1bn in oil revenue vanished from state coffers in 2001.
The Angolan government has said the problem was caused by poor accounting practices, not corruption.
Strong US interest
Nonetheless, the list of delegates to the Africa Oil and Gas conference is a who's who of the international oil industry.
The United States is represented by Kevin Murphy, deputy assistant secretary for energy at the US Commerce Department.
Analysts say the US is eager to expand its supplier nations to reduce its dependence on oil exports from the Middle East.
US firms attending the conference include Chevron Texaco, ExxonMobil, ConocoPhillips and Halliburton, the oil field services firm once run by US Vice-President Dick Cheney, Reuters news agency reported.
Delegates will discuss the challenges of deep water drilling and environmental issues such as the use of gas emissions from oil wells, the BBC's Zoe Eisenstein in Angola says.
Recent offshore discoveries, notably Total's Gindungo find and British firm BP's Plutao strike, have been made in deepwater.
Angola is sub-Saharan Africa's second-biggest oil producer, exporting about 900,000 barrels a day, Reuters reported.
The US buys about 15% of its oil imports from sub-Saharan Africa but analysts expect this figure to rise to 25% in just over a decade.
It imported oil worth $3.2bn from Angola in 2002, amounting to about one sixth of its imports from sub-Saharan Africa.
But oil earnings are failing to benefit most Angolans as 70% of the population live on less than 70 US cents a day, the BBC's Zoe Eisenstein says.