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Deepwater agenda welcome Richard Laing

…As Shell sits on Zabazaba, Bonga FIDs

Incoming Chairman of ExxonMobil affiliates in Nigeria, Mr Richard Laing, sits on a table with a list of approved offshore field development plans that could increase the company’s operated production by over 500,000 barrels of oil per day.

According to the company’s spokesman, Mr Ogechukwu Udeagha, who responded to enquiries from The Oracle Today, Mr Laing is to inherit all in the plate left by Mr Paul McGrath who has been wheeled up to handle bigger things for the ExxonMobil Corporation.

Although ExxonMobil’s operations remain spread across the country’s shallow to deepwater, undeveloped assets lay urgent agenda for all operating companies in the face of value erosion imposed by falling demand and associated low price cycle in the global oil market.

With significant finds like Owowo, Uge, Bosi and other reserves awaiting development as oil prices continue to slide; ExxonMobil affiliates in the deep offshore ought to be worried about the full cost of delay in commercializing the finds.

According to a list of government approved petroleum development projects awaiting critical investment decisions by operators, ExxonMobil is billed to activate development of operated deep offshore Owowo field in 2024.

The field development plan involves extensive commercial arrangement and negotiations which would require Mr Laing to work closely with four other partners on field development model and funding commitments.

ExxonMobil’s local affiliate, Esso Exploration & Production Nigeria Limited operates the Owowo field hosted in Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 223. It also operates proximate Oil Mining Lease (OML) 139.

According to records at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which is Nigeria’s petroleum industry lease concessionaire, Owowo field straddles OPL 223 and OML 139, a structure that calls for possible unitization arrangement.

Other commercial interests in Owowo development include Chevron Nigeria Deepwater Limited; Total E&P Nigeria Limited; Nexen Petroleum Deepwater Nigeria Limited; and Nigeria Petroleum Development Company, a unit of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) which is Nigeria’s petroleum asset concessionaire.

Therefore Mr Laing falls within the list of oil power pushers who will engage the government between now and 2024 on terms for development investments.

Other development plans approved to come up ahead of Owowo are fields which have been caught in the web of fiscal disputes with the government for over 10 years. Others await conclusion of criminal investigations into asset acquisition processes. And Shell appears to be the delay factor.

Eni’s Nigeria Agip Exploration (NAE) which is struggling with legal fallouts from its involvement with Shell in a complicated deal to buy out indigenous Malabu Oil from OPL 245 has government’s approval to start development of the Zabazaba-Etan field with a target for 120,000 barrels per day.

However, development arrangements for Zabazaba-Etan field currently suffers debilitating legal setbacks that trail investigations that target Shell and Eni over their roles in allegations of back-stage deals in the process of acquiring the billion barrel asset.

Shell which holds a significant stake in OPL 245 has maintained clenched fist at government over fiscal clarity and against tax upgrades in operated Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs). The company which leads pan-industry protest against review of production contracts in the upstream petroleum industry has also maintained lead in withholding new investments in Nigeria.

After several shifts in project deadlines, the Anglo-Dutch company which has been chased out of Nigeria Delta by host communities for irresponsible environmental practices and operations rascality is yet to reach investment decision on development of operated Bonga North and Bonga Southwest developments from where government targets 375,000 barrels per day.

The NPDC, according to the list of approved projects, has 2021 green light for development of operated Qua Iboe field onshore Niger Delta with a target to produce 90,000 barrels of crude oil per day at plateau.

Total which had evolved a tie-back development model for operated Poreowei deepwater field has since soft pedaled on the speed of activity following acute drop in oil prices during the peak of the global coronavirus pandemic. It is expected that with the cost advantage provided by the production cluster in the OML 130, Total would run ahead of schedule to hit additional 80,000 barrels per day from the location where operated Akpo and Egina fields are already pumping approximately 350,000 barrels per day.

With Mr Laing now on board and pushing inherited operations plans, ExxonMobil is expected to realize the target of about 180,000 barrels per day with the development of the billion barrel Owowo field.

Mr Laing is also expected to drive development of ExxonMobil’s other deepwater fields already cleared for development investments. Estimates have it that operated Bosi and Uge fields could collectively yield some 320,000 bpd at plateau.

The Oracle Today reports that ExxonMobil has announced the appointment of Richard Laing as Chairman and Managing Director of its three affiliates in Nigeria.

With the appointment, Mr Laing would now take charge of the company’s joint venture portfolio operated by Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited; and Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) operated Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Limited, and Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria (Offshore East).

These portfolios had robustly occupied Mr Paul McGrath who had managed the corporation’s business in the country in the past three years before his current elevation to the position of Vice President in charge of Global Projects fo rExxonMobil in Houston.

Mr. Laing is expected to sail into the position with ease having learnt to pull the right ropes in Nigeria’s operating environment where he has functioned as Executive Director in charge of oil and gas production and related support groups for all of the ExxonMobil affiliates in Nigeria.

“It is a privilege to lead the ExxonMobil team in Nigeria and build on the work that Paul McGrath has done over the last three years,” Mr Laing said, adding, “I look forward to the work that lies ahead and continuing the company’s outstanding relationships.”

SOURCE: TheOracle