Nosa Omorodion is the President of Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, NAPE, umbrella organization for petroleum geologists and Director, National Independents at Schlumberger.
In this interview with journalists, he discusses the current trend in the oil sector and the challenges therein.
Sebastine Obasi was there. It appears there is need now to search for oil more than before.
What is your take on that? Less than three per cent of the wells being drilled in the country today are below 15,000 feet.
Drilling deeper in the country is a new frontier and an opportunity to unlock the hydrocarbons seated in those very deep levels.
Many years ago, we used to scratch and find oil. We believe that if we dig deeper, we will find more.
The belief is that if we go deeper, we find more. If you really want to do that, you need a concerted approach as we are trying to drill the bar, at the same time, we are trying to expand the focus for the search beyond Niger Delta, take it down to Benue Trough, Dahomey Basin, Anambra Basin, Gongola Basin and then see what is there.
The government can search to add one billion barrels of oil per annum, to add 5.5 trillion cubic feet per annum gas, and to do that, you need to look beyond what we are currently doing.
How do we have new licensing round? Does it mean that existing blocks that the IOCs have are the areas we are going to look for oil? For us to achieve all these goals, there is need to open up, probably revisit licensing round.
Even the ones we have today, are they optimally utilised? However, with or without licensing round, there are things that can be done now.
There is a desire to open up exploration. The reason why people are not doing exploration is due to economic realities.
If the enabling environment is there, we will certainly have more explorations.
Why are people not exploring? Oil price? Go down memory lane.
Many years ago, when exploration was very very low, we came up with some incentives, MoU.
That period was when we recorded the most astronomic growth in terms of our reserves, because incentives were put in place that encouraged people to go and drill exploration wells.
The easy way out in times like this is to open up our tap and produce.
Our replenishment rate does not match our depletion rate. It is a big concern.
It is like you have money in the bank and you keep on withdrawing from that account and you don’t have income. There will come a time you run out.
If as it is today, we do nothing, in about 30 to 35 years, we completely run out of oil.
If you look at it, the big discoveries, especially the deep waters, averagely take about 8 to 10 years to bring them to stream.
If you are depleting and you are not working to replenish, it is a big concern.
Even if you make a discovery today, for you to come on stream, it will take about 4, 5, 6, years. So there is a huge gap.
There is proportionately more gas in the frontier basins than oil. Some experts are of the opinion that this is not the best time to explore the frontier basins.
They contend NNPC does not have to take the lead in exploration in the Lake Chad basin.
Times like this are the best time to drill the exploration wells.
When price is low and the cost of drilling is cheap, this is the best time to drill.
As explorationists, our job is to find oil. There is neither a wrong or right time to do it. Let’s keep the politics apart.
The important thing is that we want to grow our reserve base.
We can decide to focus on the only proven area and further explore that or expand our territory beyond that. Let me take you back.
10 or 15 years ago, Ghana was a terrain nobody could touch or the rest of West Africa was a terrain nobody could touch, but in the last 10 years, there have been tremendous success in those areas.
Hydrocarbon did not reach those areas in 10 to 15 years. It takes millions of years for hydrocarbon to settle in an area. Like it is said, necessity is the mother of invention.
When a place like Nigeria that used to be the hub of exploration activities was becoming less and less of incentivised interest to investors, they had no choice than to look elsewhere.
The indices, the trappings to find oil anywhere is a good soft rock and all these things, once they are in there, you go in there and confirm.
You do an x-ray seismic, you shoot. Based on the signatures, you go there and confirm.
What is NAPE doing as regards helping government to diversify the economy, focusing more on gas than oil? Gas or oil is hydrocarbon.
We often mix them. We did say that gas find, and there have some found already in the inland basins, in the Niger Delta, there is a lot of gas development projects subject to enabling environment to do all the projects that are ongoing. That is already ongoing as we speak.
If you make a discovery of gas, it is as good as making a discovery of oil. It is true that gas development is slower than oil development.
If you make a discovery of oil, the time to production, that gap is much reduced.
If you make a discovery of gas, you have to be carefully and almost as accurately as possible access the volume, the quality and the sustainability because somebody is going to build a plant that will take that gas.
You don’t want to start committing that expenditure and two years down the road, you tell them sorry, gas is finished. There has to be a meticulous plan.
That is why gas projects take a longer gestation period. Ultimately, gas is as good as oil today. Everybody that finds good enough gas is already working on commercialising it.
From all the exploration work that has been done in the frontier basins to date, it shows that we are actually likely to be more gas prone than oil.
Aje field that is on production right now has a huge proportionate volume of gas that has not been touched. There is a reservoir that is oil, which is being produced from.
It is already acknowledged that it is a small volume compared to the gas resources there. Anambra River field, which is the other field that Orient Petroleum has commenced production from, also has huge gas resources compared with oil.