FENCE MENDING: Kachikwu, Baru Meet, explore new Oil Opportunities

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…As Nigeria’s Oranto Petroleum signs Uganda oil exploration deal***

The Minister of State for Petroleum Resources, Dr Ibe Kachikwu and  Group Managing Director of NNPC, Mr Maikanti Baru, on Tuesday met to mend fences, as well as discuss new opportunities towards further development of the  nation’s oil and gas sector.

The duo met in Abuja during the ongoing  Nigerian Economic Summit at the Energy Policy Committee session.

It would be recalled that the duo had been involved in controversial altercation, over an alleged misapplication of funds at the NNPC, leading to the intervention of President Buhari.

Baru, who led a session, came‎ first at the venue of the programme, while Kachikwu walked in some few minutes later.

As soon as the Minister of State entered, Baru stood up, approached him and exchanged pleasantries with him.

Kachikwu also suggested  that he be represented at the second session of the dialogue by Baru, a request the organisers declined, because Baru was to chair a session as it would affect his participation.

Kachikwu left while the breakout held and did not return until  the end of the closing session.

Baru stood in for him as the Chairman of the session, and when he returned, he joined as the co-chairman.

At the end of the programme, they both exchanged pleasantries further, took some photographs, chatted and walked out of the hall t‎ogether.

On the opportunities in the Nigerian oil and gas industry, Kachikwu said the industry had enormous potentials  evolving  on a daily basis.

He,  however,  said that  the operating environment  was tough, adding that the Federal Government was looking at areas  it could provide incentives to boost returns for investors, while attracting more investors into the industry.

He said that the Federal Government was  putting in place modalities  to increase the scope of its earnings in the industry.

He said that  the environment  was improving, adding that companies that had suspended their big projects were  beginning to look at the potentials of reviving them.

Kachikwu further stated that the Federal Government was  currently conducting a study to determine reasons  why only nine marginal  oil fields  awarded  were  involved in production  out of  the 24  awarded over a decade ago.

He said that the essence of the investigation was to determine factors preventing the oil fields from producing, which he noted was designed to also advance  the Nigerian oil industry forward.

“Financing is key. We are still yet to develop a model that enables local players access financing very easily.

“And  in an environment where we do not have lot of reserves, it would be very tough.

“We are going to be looking at all kinds of guarantee platforms, whether there are money to be set aside over a shorter time period with lower interest rates, whether they are international communities that are ready to invest on basis of guaranteed returns of certain barrels.

“We are going to see how we would work to come up with a model that would help people. And that is going to come after we do a study.

“We are doing a study right now to find out why the 24 minus nine marginal fields are not producing oil, did not get to development. Let us be sure it is only financing. If it is more of technical skills, then I think we have got to address that differently.

“If it is more of financing, community development, or quarrels among shareholders, which is a major problem with these teams.

”A lot of funny bedfellows come together and once they finish, they spend the whole time quarrelling in court and nothing happens. We are going to look at all those.

Kachikwu assured that the forthcoming marginal oil field bid rounds would be transparent and would ensure that oil producing communities not just participatef in the process, but also got the most advantage from the oil fields.

“Even when you do transparency, you have to have some level of inclusive or inclusion. How do you get some of these communities to participate.“

He further disclosed that the Ministry of Petroleum  was developing models that would enable the President to choose what he wanted to do and how he wanted to go about the marginal fields’ bid round.

“The   key issue is that it must be transparent, so that people could see before they go in, what is expected, how the government wants to run this and hopefully win on the basis of very well-defined goals.”

Kachikwu also called for a whittling down of the powers of the Minister of Petroleum Resources, in favour of a stronger industry regulator.

“One thing I can say for sure is that whatever models of the Petroleum Industry Bill we are pushing, we need to begin to see an independent regulator with fairly enormous powers and with less of a political interface, so that the individuals can do their work.

“I am all for whittling down substantially, the powers of the minister, so that these institutions can work well.

”The reality is that no one stays as a minister forever. It is something we are working on with the National Assembly.

We are still working to make the independence stronger,” he added.

Baru listed the opportunities in the forthcoming marginal oil fields bid round, adding  that a successful completion of the process would present a veritable opportunity for Nigeria to grow its crude oil output and create employment.

In the meantime, Nigeria’s Oranto Petroleum has signed two production sharing agreements with Uganda to explore for oil and gas around Lake Albert, the company said on Tuesday.

Oranto was among several companies including Australia’s Armour Energy that last year bid in Uganda’s first competitive oil exploration licensing round.

“We are excited to enter this agreement … Lake Albert is home to some prime petroleum acreage,” Prince Arthur Eze, the Chairman of Oranto Petroleum, said in a
statement.

The deal covers the Ngassa Shallow Play and Ngassa Deep Play exploration blocks located near the southern part of Lake Albert, Uganda’s ministry of energy and mineral development said.

Uganda discovered oil in 2006 in the Albertine rift basin along its border with the Democratic Republic of aCongo.

Recoverable crude reserves are estimated between 1.4 and 1.7 billion barrels and first production is due in 2020.

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