With Muhammadu Buhari’s tenure as president and minister of petroleum resources coming to a close, worries over Nigeria’s exploration efforts in the north of the country and a rumored discovery of one billion barrels of crude oil there are growing significantly. Stakeholders expressed concern yesterday about the development’s secrecy amid transparency concerns, despite the fact that the news of the discovery of a billion barrels of crude oil in the Gongola basin, which is located between Bauchi and Gombe, didn’t break until two years after the discovery was first reported. When the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC), a subsidiary of the company that focuses on prospecting crude in the in-land basins, failed to include the specifics of spending by Frontier Exploration Services (FES) in its recently released 2021 audited reports, the situation became concerning.
The much-discussed crude oil discovery was not included by the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) as part of the country’s current crude oil reserves, which are currently declining and have been at roughly 37 billion barrels for over 10 years. About one billion barrels of crude oil have been discovered in the Northeast, according to Timipre Sylva, Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, who emphasized the necessity of conducting additional exploration. The deposit that has been found in the Northeast is estimated to be around a billion barrels based on the evaluation data that we are receiving. We are starting to comprehend the geological structure of the area as a result of the kinds of numbers we are seeing, the minister had said.
Crude oil, gas and condensates were discovered in the Kolmani River.
Although the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) established a fund where 30% of NNPC profits now go toward frontier exploration, the over 40 years of spending, estimated by some stakeholders to stand at above $3 billion, has been kept from the public along with crucial information on how the nation arrived at a one-billion-barrel discovery in the Gongola basin. Some geologists, explorationists, and energy experts have expressed concerns over the viability and reliability of a one-billion-barrel crude oil reserve in the region as the country’s total reserves and daily production remain on the downward trend, amid accusations that the frontier exploration agenda remained a northern one.
The oil blocks owned by the New Nigeria Development Firm Ltd, a company representing the 19 northern states, and located in the Gongola basins, specifically Oil Prospecting Licences 809 and 810, also caused alarm among the stakeholders. The blocks are being used without renewal; the experts insisted. Sylva’s announcement of discovery followed an earlier statement by the NNPC in the third quarter of 2019 that stated that crude oil, gas, and condensates were discovered in the Kolmani River region at a border community between Bauchi and Gombe states. This project is widely regarded as President Muhammadu Buhari’s pet project, which he started more than 40 years ago. Eight months had passed since Buhari had signaled the beginning of exploration efforts at the Kolmani River II Well in the Upper Benue Trough in the Gongola basin in the Northeast.
Technological advancements will aid the discovery of petroleum resources.
Nigeria’s inland basins include the Anambra basin, the rift basin known as the Benue Trough (which is divided into Upper, Middle, and Lower parts), the Mid-Niger or Bida basin, the Chad or Borno basin, and the Sokoto basin. However, despite the threat to the security of lives and property, attention has been focused on the north. While oil majors had attempted to enter the basins without success, activities began to move forward in the Northeast, particularly in the Lake Chad and Gongola basins, as soon as Buhari returned to office. However, the timing, political overtones, secrecy, and overall management of the plan were criticized. Renowned energy expert Wunmi Iledare questioned the NNPC’s findings, stating that neither the estimated amount of the discovery in the Gongola basin nor the assessed possibility of its exploitation were visible in the public domain.
He claims that present economic conditions and technological advancements will lead to the commercial discovery of petroleum resources at a specific point in the future. He emphasized that anything with a chance of development and final recoverability less than 90% is classed as unproved reserves. He also mentioned that the size of such a discovery is assessed on the basis of the likelihood of recoverability. The discoveries and frontier exploration, though a desirable route, have been clouded by political considerations, regional drive, and scorecard instead of economic realities, according to an expert who is familiar with the activities at the in-land basins.
If the discoveries were true, there should be information on it.
He believed that if the discoveries were real, by now the information should have been available for professionals and researchers to review and offer their opinions. According to the source, only the regions in the north are being given priority, even though touring through the inland basins across the nation is not awful. The source demanded clarification on the responsibilities of the Frontier Exploration Services, emphasizing the need for credible information on how the government arrived at the discoveries.