The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) on Tuesday officially kicked off the exploratory drilling campaign in Obi, Nasarawa State, with the assurance that the effort would contribute to its aspiration to grow the country’s crude oil reserves to 50 billion barrels, from the current 37 billion barrels.
Speaking at the ‘spudding’ of the Ebenyi-A Well, the first in the Middle Benue Trough, President Muhammadu Buhari, said the move was in line with the ongoing campaigns for the exploration of crude oil and gas in the nation’s frontier basins.
The president listed the assets the nation intends to explore as those in the Chad Basin, Dahomey Basin, Anambra Platform, the Calabar Embankment, Sokoto Basin, Bida Basin, Benue Trough as well as the Ultra-Deepwater Niger Delta.
Besides, the president who attended the event virtually, stated that the exploratory efforts were consistent with the commercial discoveries of hydrocarbons in the Kolmani area of the Upper Benue Trough.
“I am pleased to note that activities are currently ongoing to develop the Kolmani petroleum discoveries to commercial production to add to the nation’s considerable hydro-carbon assets.
“I am encouraged by the enormous work done by NNPC Limited to exploit the prospects in the Middle Benue Trough, leading to the event of today,” Buhari noted.
While lauding the commitment of the NNPC, the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and other partners for their immense contributions towards making the event possible, the president expressed the hope that the consequent positive outcomes of the drilling campaigns will lead to greater prosperity and enhance overall energy security for Nigeria.
He added that the surrounding communities would particularly benefit from the value that would be created by the exploration and eventual production activities and admonished NNPC and its partners to take due care of the environmental consequences of the oil exploration activities and to mitigate the negative effects.
He further thanked the government and people of Nasarawa State- the host community- for their unfettered support and collaboration towards the success of the exploration campaign.
Also speaking, the Group Chief Executive Officer of the NNPC, Mallam Mele Kyari, described the event as a special occasion, explaining that it was part of the execution of the president’s express mandate for the NNPC to pursue exploration in the frontier inland Basins with vigour.
Kyari added that the mandate targets growth of hydrocarbon reserves in the country with the ultimate aim of enhancing national energy security and associated economic benefits to the people.
While highlighting that exploration in the mid Benue trough commenced over a decade ago, he pointed out that since 2010, the NNPC had executed several geophysical activities, applied niche technologies and conducted integrated studies, leading to the firming up of the Ebenyi-A well.
The GCEO restated that findings were very indicative of potential commercial hydrocarbon discovery in the area.
“Today, we have mobilised the drilling rig to this site, here in Obi Local Government Area of Nasarawa State. We are optimistic that the positive outcome of this campaign will contribute to the national aspiration of increasing our hydrocarbon reserves from 37 billion barrels to 50 billion barrels, in the short to medium term and increase our crude oil production to a target of 3 million barrels (per day).”
He noted that the NNPC in conjunction with the NUPRC were committed to conducting exploration activities of the nation’s frontier basins that span the aforementioned basins using the best industry standards and technologies.
He further mentioned that the mobilisation for re-entry into the Chad Basin had commenced as directed by the president even as the NNPC progresses other activities in the Frontier Basins.
Kyari assured stakeholders that the NNPC will conduct the operation with the utmost care and attention to health, safety and environmental issues.
“We understand the responsibility that comes with exploring and exploiting natural resources, and we are committed to doing so in a way that will best benefits our country and its people.
“As NNPC Ltd we commit to leading practices and highest standards in the course of our operations and would be engaging in Impact Assessment studies during and after operations to mitigate possible effects of our exploration activities.
“We will also engage the host communities as major stakeholders and execute Community Assisted Projects in line with NNPC Ltd Corporate Social Responsibility policies and provisions of the PIA,” he added.
In his remarks, the Minister of State, Petroleum Resources, Timipre Sylva, stressed that the event marked another milestone in the decades of hydrocarbons exploration in the inland frontier basins.
The minister, who was represented by the NUPRC Chief Executive, Mr. Gbenga Komolafe, explained that the development underscored the efforts of government in ensuring that requisite investments were made in the frontier basins exploration in Nigeria.
He paid tributes to Buhari for mitigating energy poverty in the country as well as the NNPC board and the people of the state, stressing that he was sure of the success of the project.
Sylva added that one key function was to grow the hydrocarbons reserves of the country to 40 billion by 2030, stressing that the assets were being ‘derisked’ by the implementation of the Frontier Exploration Fund (FEF) under the PIA.
The minister explained that the spudding exercise would benefit from the fund to boost oil reserves and ensure energy security.
He added that the full benefits of the field must be extracted before the impact of the energy transition begins to take full hold. He also vowed to that the host community fund will also be extended to the people of the area in accordance with the act.
Governor of Nasarawa state, Abdullahi Sule, noted that though there had been speculation as to the presence of oil in the region, the discovery of the commodity in Kolmani with the president’s support has made Ebenyi a reality.
He appealed for rapid development of the field and called on the host community to see the project as theirs, stressing that if the right thing is done, a repeat of the Niger Delta situation will be avoided.
Executive Vice President, Upstream, NNPC, Adokiye Tombomieye, in his comments, noted that the oil well, Oil Prospecting Lease (OPL) 826, was taking off after the completion of the preliminary geological prognosis of the Keana prospect, which set the path for the commencement of drilling activities.
“Nasarawa state is on track to become an oil-producing state if our exploratory endeavour yields the expected discoveries. We are certain that the drilling campaign will be a success based on the data and hospitality we have received thus far,” he stated.
Deji Elumoye and Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja