The bogey of low exploration activities in Nigeria

Nigeria derives significant proportion of its total yearly revenue from the riches of its oil sector. The sector remains the major foreign earner and revenue contributor to the country.

But there has been low exploration activities in the country’s oil and gas sector in the last two years, occasioned by the delay in the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) and the current plummeting crude oil prices, which has halted several field projects.

To boost exploration in the country, oil and gas professionals, who gathered at a dinner organized by the Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN) recently, called on the Federal Government to ensure robust consultations with industry players to increase exploration activities in the country.

Chairman of PETAN, Emeka Ene, stated at the event that the nation’s crude oil reserves might not sustain the realisation of the country’s long term economic targets, if urgent measures are not activated to boost exploration activities and build reserves.

Ene who is also the immediate past Chairman of the Nigerian Council of Society of Petroleum Engineers, stated that the low crude oil price cycle in the global oil market and consequent drop in the cost of services in the industry have provided government and the industry the opportunity to drive exploration for more oil and gas reserves.

In explaining that exploration and drilling is best done during periods of low oil prices, Ene who is the Managing Director of the Oildata Energy Group, urged Nigeria to learn from the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), where drilling rig counts have sharply risen since the fall in oil prices and cost of industry services.

He pointed out that Nigeria’s long-term economic aspirations are at stake in the current industry impasse where exploration investments have fallen, dragging down field activities and compelled redundancy and massive staff lay-offs across the industry.

Proffering cost-effective approach to driving the realisation of such national aspirations in the petroleum industry, Ene declared that PETAN can provide leadership in the service sector by providing a model for value-added local con, which guarantees significant cost reduction as a stimulus for increase in drilling and production activities.

He urged the government to provide a solid basis for its medium to long term economic aspirations by pursuing the realization of the historically set agenda to boost the nation’s crude oil reserves to 40 billion barrels, build production capacity to 4.0 million barrels per day, monetize the country’s vast natural gas resources and increase the local content of the industry activities.

The only way to continue driving the aspirations under the prevailing low price cycle in the industry, he said, is to optimize the use of indigenous and local capacity for job delivery.

Former President of Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Austin Avuru, decried the low reserves status of the country, saying that despite the highly advertised economic contributions of the petroleum industry the sector has become a drag on the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

Avuru, who is also the Managing Director of Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, blamed the direct impact of the oil price drop on the inability of the government to build a robust sovereign wealth fund to buffer against sudden price shocks in the crude export market.

He pointed out that whereas other OPEC countries are driving exploration and production activities with sovereign wealth funds despite the current low oil prices, Nigeria has been plunged into a deep cash crunch due to unavailability of such funds.

Avuru corroborated Ene’s position that the medium to long term economic aspirations of the country have become unrealistic because, according to him, little or no exploration activities in the industry means that the nation’s lean oil and gas reserves can no longer provide support for the much hyped economic projections.

He pointed at falling oil production from the traditional onshore and shallow water terrains from 2.4 million barrels per day to current 1.2 million barrels per day (mbd), explaining that production from the deepwater which should have increased the nation’s production has merely ended up only stabilizing output at 2.4 mbd.

Avuru also drew urgent attention to imminent gas crisis, saying that rising domestic gas demand means that the existing reserves cannot support medium term demand projections.

Domestic gas demand, he said, has jumped from the previous 300 million standard cubic feet per day (300 scf/d) to the current 1.0 billion scf/d, with projections that demand will balloon to 3.0 Bscf/d by 2017.
“The projected domestic gas demand is about four times more than what the country’s current estimated gas reserves can support,” he declared.pointing at industry estimates that place the nation’s proven and probable gas reserves at 100 trillion cubic feet.

He blamed the unworkability of some critical oil industry related government policies on the collapse of industry-government interfaces, stressing that government has become increasingly unable or unwilling to listen to the industry on how to solve some of these very critical issues.

PETAN had used the opportunity of the Awards Dinner to recognize and confer various awards, medals and several accolades on the Late Dr Rilwanu Lukman of blessed memory, Dr Emmanuel Egborgah, Gaius Obaseki, Sanni Bello, and Mutiu Sunmonu.
Other eminent industry professionals recognized by the group include Mrs Callista Azogu, Charles Ngoka and Ugo Ralph Ekezie.

Other oil industry business icons applauded with awards are Shawley Coker, Pedro Egbe, Steven Aribeana, Sam Adegboyega, Dr Diran Fawibe and Emeka Okwuosa.

Also Corporate awardees with positive imprints in the industry including Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC), Neconde Limited and First bank PLC respectively were also recognized for their significant contributions to the development of the Nigerian oil industry in 2015.


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