The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Chief Timipre Sylva, has said the Federal Government is in talks with Shell over the planned sale of the company’s stakes in Nigeria’s onshore oil assets.
The Nigerian oil and gas industry has in the past two decades seen a surge in the number of indigenous players, buoyed largely by the divestment of assets by International Oil Companies operating in the country.
Early this year, three IOCs concluded the sale of their combined 45 per cent interest in Oil Mining Lease 17 and related assets in the Eastern Niger Delta to TNOG Oil and Gas Limited, an indigenous integrated energy company.
Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited, Total E&P Nigeria Limited and Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited assigned their interests of 30 per cent, 10 per cent and five per cent respectively in the lease to TNOG Oil and Gas.
“The Federal Government is in consultation with the Shell on its divestment plan, although some actually feel that Shell should not hurriedly divest,” the minister was quoted by S&P Global Platts as saying in a statement on Wednesday.
Shell is Nigeria’s biggest oil producer, accounting for around 40 per cent of the country’s total crude and condensate output capacity of 2.2 million barrels per day, and the divestment could have a big impact on the country’s oil output.
The minister’s statement comes a day after Shell’s Chief Executive Officer, Ben van Beurden, told investors that the company’s onshore oil portfolio in Nigeria was “no longer compatible” with its strategic ambitions, which included a focus on climate change and net zero carbon strategy.
“It means that the balance of risks and rewards associated with our onshore oil portfolio in Nigeria is no longer compatible with our strategic ambitions,” he added.
Van Beurden, however, said Nigeria would continue to be an important heartland for Shell, with a focus on the country’s deepwater and gas assets.
Sylva said options put forward by Nigeria in its talks with Shell included handing over Shell’s stakes in the assets to the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company, the upstream arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, inviting bids from Nigerian indigenous producers, or having a mixture of local firms and foreign independent producers to bid for the assets.
With significant oil and gas reserves, Africa is expected to see a significant divestment of legacy oil and gas assets, as more energy companies pledge net-zero ambitions.
Shell has already sold a handful of its onshore oil blocks over the past 10 years, citing the need to cut risk due to community unrest and continued sabotage attacks on its oil installations. These blocks had been snapped up by Nigerian indigenous operators including Seplat Petroleum Development Company Plc, Aiteo E&P, First Hydrocarbons and NPDC.
Local analysts said apart from the associated risk of unrest and insecurity in the Niger Delta, the failure of the Nigerian government to pass into law the landmark energy legislation — the Petroleum Industry Bill — was also a key factor pushing Shell away from the country.
This key legislation, which is meant to completely overhaul the Nigerian oil industry and provide new fiscal incentives to producers, has been in the works for more than a decade.
Hopes were raised that the PIB would be passed by the parliament by the first quarter of 2021, but this did not materialise.
Sylva said the executive arm of the government was in talks with lawmakers to ensure the passage of the PIB by June this year.
On May 18, Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo said the PIB was in its third reading, or final stages, after which it would be passed.
“We are trying to make our oil and gas industry more competitive,” he said at the Columbia Global Energy Summit,
Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, has seen its output fall sharply since early 2020 due to the oil price crash amid the coronavirus pandemic and as it came under pressure to adhere to OPEC+ output cuts.
The country is also very keen to grow its gas resources as oil export revenues continue to taper.