‘Nigeria needs to aggregate its resources, set a new energy landscape for the future’
Ajibola Oyebamiji is the President of the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE). In this interview with FEMI ADEKOYA, he talks about how new technologies are changing exploration and production activities in the oil and gas industry, and what government needs to do to attract new investments in the industry.
The use of new technologies has aided the discovery of new hydrocarbons and also delivered operational efficiencies. Do you think the Nigerian oil and gas industry is ready for the challenge?
The Oil and Gas industry is global, and global best practices are employed in the operations of IOCs in Nigeria. I recall one of our Annual International Conferences had the theme ‘’Drilling Deeper Searching Wider’’. That particular conference focused on the use of technology to reach hitherto unreached depths. The era of ‘easy to find’ oil and gas is coming to an end. And that is why oil companies are developing new technologies to detect reservoirs that were once invisible for example at depths of more than 3,000 meters. A very recent example is the discovery of oil and gas in the Gongola basin. The well was drilled with ‘’Ikenga Rig 101’’ to a total depth of 13,701 feet. NNPC deployed world class cutting-edge technologies including surface geochemistry and even aerial surveys.
Another recent example was the discovery announced by the Nigerian Agip Oil Company Limited, Obiafu field, with over 1Trillion Cubic of gas/condensate was drilled in excess of 4,000metres. High Pressure/High Temperature drilling rig was used. That is technology.
Recently, the Department of Petroleum Resources granted two companies the permission for pilot tests on some new technologies, I am not at liberty to mention their names. The tests came out with fantastic results. These newly tested technologies are a major breakthrough for exploration in Nigeria as they will serve as alternatives to seismic acquisition especially in hard to reach terrains with security challenges. They are also cheaper and hence cost effective.
How can government encourage investors by incentivizing investments in digital technologies through legislations when the PIB remains in limbo?
The fact of the matter is that the Internet of Things (IoT) is driving the momentum of digitalization across multiple industries and any industry that is not proactive enough to embrace it will be left behind. So, it may be a costly gamble to wait for government incentives which may not be forth coming in a hurry.
Now coming to the PIB bill, as you are aware there are two pieces of legislations that were tinkered with to devolve into four pieces of legislation. They are the Petroleum Act of 1969 and the fiscal bill, the Petroleum Profit tax (PPT) Act of 1959. Some aspects of these Acts are obsolete. Luckily, several aspects of these bills have been amended. The governance bill has been passed. The fiscal bill which is yet to come is very crucial. It will combine aspects of the Petroleum Act and the PPT. This bill in concert with the governance bill will, hopefully, establish the fulcrum for investments in the industry. Perhaps when the fiscal bill comes into existence it will contain the incentives for which stakeholders are clamouring.
The future of oil is argued to be bleak in the face of renewables. Do you agree with this position?
Oil is an exhaustible resource, even though coal oil and gas still account for 70% of the energy mix today, they cannot be replenished. It will therefore be foolhardy if we do not start planning for when we exhaust them. The world is planning ahead. The Department of Petroleum Resources reported that more than 78% of total energy consumption is from petroleum. It is obvious that depending mainly on fossil fuels is not enough to meet the energy needs of the nation.
Nigeria is blessed with a myriad of renewable energy resources such as hydroelectric, solar, wind, tidal and biomass. There is a need to aggregate all these resources and set a new energy landscape for the country. The onus is on government to make renewable energy available and affordable to all. In the end, whatever the energy mix is will be determined by the efficiency, cost effectiveness and impact on the environment.
So, if in the future, oil and gas remain the cheapest means of driving vehicles, we will drive our cars using oil and gas. Whatever energy mix that will survive will depend on how effective renewables become especially having to deal with the issue of sustainability. Irrespective of whatever mix survives, Nigeria must key into what the future and technology throws up. Gas is even a cleaner source of energy. The entire Niger Delta basin is proven to be gas rich than oil. Deliberate exploration activities for gas should be encouraged, build facilities and enact enabling gas policies for the country. The key word is innovation. We must innovate or be left behind.
Every day the oil and gas industry generate data that are not harmonized to address key issues in exploration and production. How do you think this challenge can be addressed?
Many advanced oil and gas jurisdictions have what is called a National Data Repository (NDR). NDRs are typically set up by government and regulators as a long-term strategy to protect and optimize the value of a nation’s natural resources. National Data Repositories often represent significant collection of data over a long period of time. By Collecting, standardizing and making data available quickly and efficiently, they reduce barriers blocking investor entry thereby maximizing inward investment in exploration and production operations.
In Nigeria, government under the auspices of the Department of Petroleum Resources set up a National Data Repository with a board drawn from oil companies. The intention was for it to run as a business entity. The need for NDR is compelling but it requires adoption and acceptance by stakeholders. Unfortunately, companies were reluctant to bring data and sometimes when these data is submitted, having easy access is a challenge. Efficient access to trusted data comes at a cost. I will encourage strong collaboration, such as joint projects, to quality control existing data for proper harmonization, amongst the stakeholders. Good and quality database is valuable to the digitalization and technology applications that is currently sweeping the industry.
What efforts are being put in place by NAPE to ensure operators embrace innovation?
NAPE is the umbrella association for persons involved in the professional application of geosciences and related disciplines to the exploration and production of oil and gas in the country. We have over 12,000 members across the oil and gas industry, IOCs, NOCs, the academia and government agencies.
We are a professional body and we make sure we make knowledge available to our members and other critical stakeholders. In the past 37 years, we have hosted well-put-together conferences with brilliant technical paper presentations. In our Pre-Conference workshops, we select topical issue as it affects the O&G industry, discuss it rigorously and come up with a communiqué. Some of our communiques have been implemented by government. Some key pieces of legislation like the Marginal Field and deepwater Acts were recommendations from our communiques.
We also have a robust industry-academia collaboration initiative where industry practitioners go back to tertiary institutions to share and exchange knowledge. Recently NAPE organized a one -day workshop for media professionals reporting the oil and gas industry to enrich their knowledge of the oil and gas industry and thereby improve their skills in reporting the industry. NAPE believes that members of the press are critical stakeholders in the Nigerian economy and that one of the reasons for the slow growth in the economy is due to poor reportage of the business environment. NAPE also runs Young Professional programmes where the next generation of geoscientist are nurtured.
A lot of the conversations at this year’s conference will be on digitalization and new technologies in Nigeria’s Exploration and Production Landscape.
What plans has NAPE to ensure the production of New E&P professionals?
Without a doubt, education is the most crucial ingredient for the economic, social and peaceful development of a nation, but perhaps more critical is the transformation of education to adapt in a globalizing environment.
At NAPE at every level, the Young Professionals, State Chapters, and Students’ Chapters, we have placed a high priority on the enhancement of technical training and the development of curricula that will equip Nigerian students with skills and competencies not just to compete with their peers globally but prepare them for life after graduation. We have several vehicles for achieving these objectives. The NAPE – University Assistance Programme (UAP) is one of such initiatives. The UAP programme is also a leadership programme and has been acclaimed to be a bridge for stronger geosciences education between the Industry and the Academia and a pipeline for continuous growth of membership of the Association. NAPE also organizes a Mini-Conference bi-annually for tertiary institutions. The NAPE organized Students Mini Conferences is a platform where students from tertiary institutions all over Nigeria, offering Geosciences, meet to share knowledge and best practices.
Recently our sister organization, Women in Geosciences (WiGE) visited secondary schools in Lagos to introduce them to the ‘’ Exciting World of Geology’ as an initiative to catch them young. NAPE organizes Career mentoring Visiting Geoscience Lectureship for Nigerian Universities on an annual basis to tutor and mentor the younger ones on best practices in the field of geosciences. The PetroChallenge, Imperial Barrel Award and University Geoscience Quiz competition amongst Nigerian Universities organized by NAPE are other massive investment by the association to sharpen the skills and knowledge of our student members.