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Aiteo Group: Local Conglomerate with International Pedigree

-By Gideon Osaka

The pivotal role oil and gas plays in the Nigerian economy is immeasurable. The sector contributes an estimated 56.8% of National revenue according to the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) Quarterly Economic Report Q4 2017-Q3 2019 and about 88% of foreign exchange earnings according to the KPMG’s Industry Insight report April, 2019.

Nigeria is therefore not isolated from the current wave of global energy transition that has largely been driven by three key factors namely environmental, technological advancements and national policy realignments.

However, given the diverse applications of hydrocarbon and its derivatives in support of human civilization and industrialization, fossils will continue to play a dominant role in the global energy mix in the foreseeable future.

Consequently, there is still a window of opportunity for Nigeria to realize its hydrocarbon target of 3 million barrels per day (b/d) production and 40 billion barrels of oil reserves by 2025.

These national objectives are part of what is driving an indigenous integrated energy group called Aiteo.

20 years ago, a Nigerian entrepreneur, Mr. Benedict Peters founded a company called Sigmund Communecci trading in refined products. That company became the building block of what is today known as the Aiteo Group.

Aiteo Group has diverse interests which cut across the energy value chain today; with Upstream, Midstream and Downstream assets.

The company’s main subsidiary Aiteo Eastern Exploration and Production Company Ltd (Aiteo E&P) started up as an SPV to participate in the international oil companies (IOC) asset divestment exercise of 2014.

Aiteo Eastern E&P emerged the winner of the competitive bid for 45% private stake held by Shell (30%), TOTAL (10%) and AGIP (5%) in OML 29 and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) under the NNPC-SPDC Joint Venture.

By virtue of this successful acquisition, Aiteo E&P became the operator of the NNPC-Aiteo Joint Venture. OML 29, located in the swamp of the Niger Delta has 6 flow stations and 4 Associated Gas Gathering Compressor Stations.

The company acquired OML 29 in September, 2015 when oil major Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) fully exited the facility. At the time of the divestment, average production was 23,000 bpd. But the company has since tripled this figure with peak production of 90,000 b/d in just one year after its acquisition of OML 29, said to be sub-Sharan Africa’s largest onshore oil bloc.

Aiteo Eastern E&P has been the operator of the 97-km Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), an industry-wide evacuation pipeline for produced fluids covering much of the country’s Eastern Delta region. The NCTL has become a strategic national oil delivery infrastructure transporting crude from 6 producers to the Bonny Crude Oil Terminal.

The company’s CEO, Benedict Peters recently highlighted several existing and developing projects that could potentially grow Aiteo’s asset production to over 150,000 b/d and 200 million standard cubic feet per day (MMscfd).

He said: “Our outlook is bright with three producing oil fields and viable crude exports via Bonny terminal. We also have contingent resources to appraise and prospective ones to explore in the medium-to-long term, including full 3D coverage and 2P reserves at 1.6 barrels.”

Valuechain reports that Aiteo E&P is one of the few indigenous oil companies working assiduously towards significant contribution to the realisation of Nigeria’s 3m b/d production target and 40 billion barrels of reserve estimates by 2025.

Speaking in an industry address at the recently concluded Nigeria International Petroleum Summit (NIPS), the GMD of Aiteo Group, Victor Okoronkwo, said that with the continued reliance and high demand for oil and gas, prices for these commodities will remain exposed to geopolitical events, climate considerations, adding that the current coronavirus outbreak still poses challenges to the industry.

The imperatives for success, according to him, will therefore be predicated on amongst other factors, creating a stable operating environment as well as establishing robust regulatory and fiscal frameworks.

“Key energy industry reforms will be critical in boosting investor confidence and attracting otherwise elusive investments into Nigeria,” he said.

Unfortunately, the company like every other indigenous E&P company in the country has suffered its share of the harsh operating environment.

Aiteo has been hit hard by the slew of attacks on oil and gas infrastructure in Nigeria, which forced overseas investors to shut down operations occasionally.

According to Okoronkwo, shutting down the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL) at a time cost the company, as well as the Nigerian government, a huge US$2 billion in revenue over a two year period.

Despite the company’s significant investment in security, technology and civic engagements, the destructive pattern of pipeline vandalism persists.

For instance, Aiteo in a recent statement said that findings from Joint Investigative Visits (JIVs) in 2019, comprising security and regulatory agencies as well as community representatives, revealed that 98 per cent of all incidences were attributable to third-party infractions alone.

‘’Over the last four years, more than 200 shut down days have been recorded on the NCTL,” the company said in a 2019 statement.

Despite these daunting challenges the company has set ambitious targets for the future. Aiteo last year announced plans to spend as much as $5 billion to boost its oil and natural gas production in the next five years.

The company also plans to drill new oil wells and re-open existing ones as it seeks to raise production. Aiteo currently pumps about 90,000 barrels of oil a day and forecasts production of 250,000 barrels in five years under the planned expansion. Daily natural gas production would increase six-fold to 300 million standard cubic feet in the period.

In the Community Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) area, Aiteo gives back to the local communities in which it operates through grants and donations, seed capital and philanthropy. It has also supported several social investment projects, including a special focus on supporting the study of engineering in host communities and sports.

In sports, Aiteo has become the foremost financier of football in the country after a string of contributions to the Nigerian Football Federation (NFF) and the Super Eagles. To support local football, Aiteo took over the sponsorship of the Federation Cup, Nigeria’s oldest football tournament, now renamed Aiteo Cup. On the continental stage, Aiteo partnered with the Confederation of African Football (CAF) to sponsor the African Football Awards in January 2018.

In recognition of the company’s ground-breaking contributions to oil and gas development in Nigeria Aiteo Group has bagged several national and international awards like the indigenous oil and gas company of the year award at the Nigerian Oil and Gas (NOG) conference, Nigeria’s leading annual oil and gas industry event which draws major players across the Nigerian Energy sector.