News / Africa

Oil Giants to Stay Onshore Nigeria Despite Grumbles

A Shell employee is seen aboard an oil vessel off the coast of Nigeria in this December 26, 2011 file photo.A Shell employee is seen aboard an oil vessel off the coast of Nigeria in this December 26, 2011 file photo.
x
A Shell employee is seen aboard an oil vessel off the coast of Nigeria in this December 26, 2011 file photo.
A Shell employee is seen aboard an oil vessel off the coast of Nigeria in this December 26, 2011 file photo.
Reuters
A wave of planned sales of onshore Nigerian assets by major oil companies has prompted speculation that they are finally leaving the Niger Delta because of oil theft, gangsterism and political uncertainty.         

In reality, though, foreign firms such as Royal Dutch Shell, Chevron, Eni and Total are here to stay, industry sources say. The companies are likely to sell only small blocks that are not worth their while; those assets worst affected by theft and sabotage or fields that risk expropriation in a government push to promote local ownership.    

Meanwhile, the large oil producing blocks, huge gas deposits, key pipelines and the export terminals that control the passage of onshore oil to international markets will most likely stay in their hands, enabling them to retain infrastructure for which they can charge rent to other users.

Complaints by oil giants that Nigeria has done little to combat oil theft or end uncertainty over changes to the fiscal regime by passing the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) are genuine, but they won't drive the firms away from the country.

“Nigeria's 'difficult' operating environment, security concerns and the non-passage of the PIB all provide useful cover for what may essentially be a portfolio optimization process,” said Razia Khan, Head of Africa Research at Standard Chartered.

The global shale oil and gas boom means there are more exploration opportunities, so it makes financial sense to keep only the most profitable businesses in Nigeria, like gas for LNG export, and expand deep offshore where there is no oil theft.  If anything, they will use their grievances as leverage in negotiations with government over licenses and taxes.

Oil theft headaches

Nigeria's oil production, which fluctuates between 2-2.5 million barrels per day (bpd), is unlikely to be hugely affected by any oil block sales in the short-term and could get an uplift in the future if smaller local companies work harder to exploit reserves or can better stem insecurity with local communities.

Tycoon’s Tony Elumelu and Wale Tinubu, the Oando CEO, both of them negotiating to buy oil blocks off major companies, told Reuters in recent interviews they thought it would be easier for Nigerian companies with a better understanding of local issues to manage often fraught community relations.

But ending oil theft, officially estimated at 250,000 bpd, is a massive undertaking. It is often associated with criminal gangs who tap crude from pipelines for local refining, but most stolen crude leaves the country in large tankers, which could not happen without the complicity of top officials.

Shell, the largest producer in Nigeria, said last week it took a $700 million hit from theft and other issues in Nigeria, as well as the tax impact of a weakening Australian dollar.

Shell's share of output in Nigeria fell to 158,000 bpd in the second quarter, down from 260,000 bpd in 2012.

Shell CEO Peter Voser nevertheless told Reuters this month the company was not seeking to leave Nigeria.

Eni said it had lost 30,000 bpd of output in the first half of the year due to theft and CEO Paolo Scaroni said the company was “reviewing its position” in Nigeria.

Total declined to comment on its plans.

Shell, which has already sold eight blocks in the Niger Delta for around $1.8 billion since 2010, announced it will sell more fields amounting to 80,000-100,000 bpd, although it is not clear if this level of output is yet being produced.

Chevron is also selling five shallow water blocks, but would not comment further on its plans for Nigeria, while fellow U.S. firm ConocoPhillips is selling its Nigerian businesses to Oando for about $1.79 billion.

Political uncertainty

Theft may not be the only reason for selling down.

The PIB, although still in a political deadlock that has lasted five years, could change the terms for foreign companies in Nigeria and will promote local ownership of onshore blocks.

Shell, Chevron, Eni and Total have been in failed negotiations with the Nigerian government for several years to renew expired licenses on many onshore and shallow water blocks.

“Perhaps they would rather sell licenses while they still can rather than having to relinquish them for nothing,” said Antony Goldman, head of Africa-focused PM Consulting.

Yet Shell recently announced it would spend $3.9 billion on a gas project and a reconstruction of a better protected Trans Niger pipeline, one of the country's most important crude oil routes and one that’s often hit by outages caused by theft or sabotage. That suggests it still sees value working onshore in Nigeria.

Shell may even buy one of Chevron's blocks, two sources told Reuters, which would provide the perfect route from one of Nigeria's largest gas fields to its LNG export terminal.

Nigeria holds the world's ninth largest gas reserves, most of which are untapped. Major energy firms are increasingly moving towards gas production instead of oil in the Niger Delta.

Companies such as Shell will likely keep large pipelines and export terminals, so even if local firms are getting the oil out of the ground, where the risks of insecurity are highest, the major companies can make a cut from taking oil to international markets.

“Oil majors want to keep control of this infrastructure as it means they will have a large degree of control of onshore assets and derive revenue from transportation,” said Kayode Akindele, partner at Lagos-based investment firm 46 Parallels.

There is no guarantee that deals on assets that the major firms do want to sell can be easily or quickly completed - Nigeria has one of the world's slowest oil contract approval times, experts say.

Some of Shell's previous divestments took years to negotiate. Buyers will also be wary of the state oil company's production arm NPDC taking over the operating rights - as it has on previous Shell field sales where the private buyers were expecting to operate them.

Yet for the all the pitfalls, Nigeria will be keen to close the deals, which please the political elite and public alike.

“The divestment is a positive step for all the major players involved ... (it) will have a positive knock-on impact on production longer-term,” said Martin Kelly, Wood Mackenzie's lead analyst for Sub-Saharan Africa Upstream Research. “But ... in order to make a noticeable difference other challenges need to be addressed - like the PIB and security,” he added.

You May Like

Islamic State Survivor: A Yazidi Girl's Tale

Sarah Said Haydar, captured a year ago while fleeing Islamic State onslaught in northern Iraq, was so traumatized by militants, she sought to end her own life More

EU, US Applaud Kosovo Law on Special Court

Joint statement says lawmakers' decision to address allegations of war crimes 'demonstrated their commitment to the rule of law and to honor international agreements' More

ASEAN Ministers to Push for S. China Sea Agreements

According to documents obtained by VOA Khmer, ministers will stand up for 'freedom of navigation, unimpeded lawful maritime commerce, trade and over flight' More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Tradei
X
Robert Carmichael
August 04, 2015 3:07 PM
Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Cambodia Makes Progress Curbing Bear Trade

Cambodia’s wild bears are under unprecedented pressure. Their native forests are being cut down at record rates, and China's huge demand for traditional medicine has made them targets. But experts say Cambodia's conservation efforts are setting an example that has put it well ahead of its neighbors in protecting bears. Robert Carmichael reports for VOA from Phnom Penh.
Video

Video Growing Number of E. Jerusalem Palestinians Seek Israeli Citizenship

Most Palestinians living in East Jerusalem have long rejected the option of full Israeli citizenship, seeing it as a betrayal to their political cause - the formation of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. But as that dream remains elusive, more and more Palestinians are applying for Israeli citizenship. Zlatica Hoke reports the decision is hard for many Palestinians who say they have to be pragmatic about it.
Video

Video With No Money, More Students, African Universities Struggle

Academics from around the African continent converged in Johannesburg last week for the African Universities Summit, a chance to tackle some of the major issues facing higher education in Africa today. VOA's Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.
Video

Video Iraqi Yazidis Fear Death of Their Community

A year ago on August 3, Islamic State militants stormed the homelands of Iraq’s Yazidi minority, killing hundreds of men and enslaving thousands of women. The scenes of desperate Yazidi families crowding on the top of Sinjar mountain without food or water spurred Kurdish fighters into action, an emergency airlift and the start of the U.S. airstrike campaign against the Islamic State Sunni extremists. VOA's Sharon Benh reports from northern Iraq.
Video

Video Bangkok Warned It Soon Could Be Submerged

Italy's Venice and America's New Orleans are not the only cities gradually submerging. The nearly ten million residents of the Bangkok urban area now must confront warnings the city could become uninhabitable in a few decades. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman reports from the Thai capital.
Video

Video Inclusive Gym Gets People With Disabilities in Fitness Spirit

Individuals with special needs are 58 percent more likely to be obese than the general population. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, they also have an increased likelihood of anxiety, depression and social isolation. But a sports club outside Washington wants to make a difference in these people's lives. With Carol Pearson narrating, VOA's June Soh reports.
Video

Video Wisconsin's Voter ID Law Still Mired In Controversy

Voter ID laws have sparked controversy across the US. More than 30 states enacted laws requiring citizens to show identification before they vote. Against fierce opposition, the state of Wisconsin recently enacted one the most restrictive voter ID laws in country. As Jeff Swicord reports, no one can predict its impact as the 2016 election nears.
Video

Video Astronauts Train Underwater for Deep Space Missions

Manned deep space missions are still a long way off, but space agencies are already testing procedures, equipment and human stamina for operations in extreme environment conditions. Small groups of astronauts take turns in spending days in an underwater lab, off Florida’s southern coast, simulating future missions to some remote world. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Ebola Vaccine Hailed as Highly Effective

At last, there's a way to end the suffering from the Ebola epidemic that has ravaged West Africa for more than a year. Researchers say the vaccine is so effective, there may never be a major outbreak of Ebola again. VOA's Carol Pearson reports.
Video

Video Special Olympics Show Competitors' Skill, Determination

Special Olympics competitions will wrap up Saturday in Los Angeles, and the closing ceremony for athletes with intellectual disabilities will be held Sunday night. In a week of competition, athletes have shown what they can do through skill and determination. VOA's Mike O'Sullivan reports.
Video

Video Civil Rights Leaders Struggled to Achieve Voting Rights Act

Fifty years ago, lawmakers approved, and U.S. President Lyndon Johnson signed, the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The measure outlawed racial discrimination in voting, giving millions of blacks in many parts of the southern United States federal enforcement of the right to vote. Correspondent Chris Simkins introduces us to some civil rights leaders who were on the front lines in the struggle for voting rights.
Video

Video Shooter’s Grill: Serving Food with a Touch of the Second Amendment

Shooter's Grill, a restaurant in Rifle, Colorado, attracts visitors from all over the world as well as local patrons. The reason? Waitresses openly carry loaded firearms as they serve food, and customers are welcome to carry them, too. VOA's Enming Liu and Lin Yang paid a visit to Shooter's Grill, and heard different opinions about this unique establishment.
Video

Video Despite Controversy, Business Owner Continues Sale of Confederate Flags

At Cooter’s, a store in rural Sperryville, Virginia, about 120 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., Confederate flags are flying off the shelves. The red, white and blue battle flag, with 13 white stars representing the Confederate states, was carried by southern forces during the U.S. Civil War in the 1860s. The South had seceded from the Union over several key issues of disagreement, including slavery. VOA’s Deborah Block has the story.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Hometown of Boy Scouts of America Founder Reacts to Gay Leader Decision

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.

VOA Blogs