Africa · Analysis · News · Nigeria

Chad Basin: Nigeria’s next oil wells?

If oil is found in the Chad basin, the find may turn around the lives of many needy communities in the Lake Chad area.

In Borno, Yobe, Bauchi, Gombe and by extension Adamawa States in the north eastern part of the country, residents believe that they are sleeping on top of liquid gold (oil).

Undoubtedly, there is high hope among the locals on the prospects of finding oil in commercial quantity in Northern Nigeria.

Most of the locals in the areas visited by this reporter are however skeptical on some impediments that may likely delay oil exploration activities in the north.

“Recently, we were consoled when we realized that the Nigerian government had attracted the cooperation of the Chinese  to the Chad Basin oil fields in Kukawa,” Mahe Dalhatu, 31, a student in the department of sociology at the University of Maiduguri (UNIMAID) and a resident of Monguno in northern Borno State, said.“We are optimistic because we believe the Chinese are a serious people , and they are seriously looking for energy and raw materials for their growing industries,” Dalhatu said.

Daily Trust reports that the Chad Basin oil exploration which started over 30 years ago , had suffered series of delays.

In 2006, the federal government and the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) owned by the 19 northern states, revisited the project and signed a Production Sharing Contract (PSC) agreement in respect of four oil blocs allocated the NNDC for oil prospecting in the Lake Chad Basin.

The then Group Managing Director (GMD) of NNDC Alhaji Aliyu Alkali said with the approval, the search for the oil had begun with full commitment.

The NNDC later signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with African Finance Corporation (AFC) that would ensure that the region’s oil and gas reserve of an estimated 100 billion cubic litres is exploited.

Findings revealed that the agreement was hinged on the development of the hydrocarbon potentials of the four oil blocs which the NNDC got, including, OPLs 809 and 810 in the Benue Trough and 722 and 733 in the Chad Basin.

It was gathered that in the Benue Trough which is between Bauchi and Gombe states, a few wells had been drilled by some multinational oil companies. On OPL 809, Shell had conducted a work programme on the bloc and drilled one well named Kolmani River-1 in 1999.

Experts say the hydrocarbon phase encountered in the well was essentially a gas and condensate  phase ,estimated to have minimum gas reserves of between 33 billion to 100 billion cubic litres.

Of recent, nothing much has been been heard about the progress on the NNDC/ AFC deal; a scenario which underscores the apprehension of locals in the affected areas on ‘insincerity’ of northern leaders on the project.

Also, oil prospecting in the Lake Chad, earlier embarked upon by the NNPC in the late 1970’s, was stopped in the late 80’s in circumstances seen widely as controversial.

Others attributed the failure of the project to the deployment of mundane methods of survey and data collection in oil fields.

The Nigeria/Chinese partnership in Kukawa

Experts who are now working on the oil fields in the desert areas of Kukawa local government area of Borno State ,have claimed that there are high hopes in the ongoing seismic experimentations of the oil prospecting project.

It was gathered that 3D Prospect, one of the latest technology in oil exploration in the world is being used in the desert area.

The Chad Basin 3D Prospect, also known as JV 109 is a Joint Venture Seismic operation between Integrated Data Service Limited (IDSL), a subsidiary of the Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and the Bureau of Geophysical  Prospecting (BGP), a subsidiary of Chinese National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC).

The two conglomerates are now working together on behalf of the federal government of Nigeria (FGN) in a total of about 3,000 square kilometres available around Kukawa, and neighbouring communities in Borno State.

When this reporter visited Kukawa recently, Mr. Yemi Dare, the head of the Public relations unit of the IDSL/BGP exploration project was not around, but he explained on phone that the federal government was committed to the project.

According to him, “the Chad Basin oil exploration project is very dear to the heart of President Dr. Goodluck Ebele Jonathan and the federal government.

He was, however, cautious in declaring that oil has been found in commercial quantity. “The fact is that we are making serious progress. There are sensitive matters that we would not disclose to you,  but I am sure when you go round and see what we are doing, you will appreciate the fact that we are making serious progress,” he said.

Mr. Yemi however gave directive to other officers to brief this reporter on other matters that will assist in writing this report.

Thus during an interaction at the Kukawa Base camp, Mr. James Umoru, the Seismic Assistant Party Chief on the Chad Basin oil prospecting ,said many people are not aware that the project has reached an appreciable state.

“For many decades, oil prospecting in Nigeria was in the wetland , but the federal government believes that there are possibilities of finding oil in the arid areas. This is basically why we are here,” he said.

“If possibilities exist in the other side of the Chad Basin, especially in Niger, Chad and Cameroon,  it  goes to show that oil should also be found here,” he said.

“This is a mega project and the prospect is high,” Umoru said, adding that engineers and modern equipment have been working round the clock,” he added.

He said experts at the site are using the Vibroseis machines, the latest and most efficient seismic data gathering equipment for desert operations.

Citing relevant data, Umaru said, “We are deploying state of the art equipment to acquire 3D seismic data. This includes the use of Real Time Kinematic (RTK) GPS, Vibroseis (Nomad 65) and explosives operation to sample the earth interior for possible petroleum traps,” he said.

Findings reveal that Nigeria’s IDSL and china’s BGD had on October 21st 2009, reached an agreement to share risk, profit, Equipment and expertise in the Execution of the CHAD BASIN Re-entry Project.

And on 28th October, 2009, the crew comprising experts from both sides mobilized to the Operational Base in Kukawa, 200 km away from Maiduguri.

“Today, the Vision of the PROTANGONIST of JV 109 is paying off with daily production average of 4.65Sq. Km per day, from a trifling average of 2.66Sq Km per day in phase one, with an RTK positional accuracy of ±0.002m…” Umoru said.

Our correspondent gathered that the Chad Basin prospect is divided into 12 phases (Blocs 1-12), covering 3,000 square kilometers in a project expected to last about 36 months.

The project basically entails survey, drilling and recording of seismic data which will ultimately confirm the commercial quantity of hydrocarbon or otherwise.

Activities in the first phase ended on 8th of August, 2010, with seismic data acquired in 196,244 square kilometers, representing 6.54 percent.

The second phase which was awarded in August, 2010 covered a total of 335.0 square kilometers and the terrain consists partly of desert and partly dense vegetation with farming activities in about 30 communities.

Progress so far

Investigations at the Base Camp showed that 71 GPS Control Points were established using 7 Rovers RTK and two Base Stations while an estimated 7,000 single deep holes shots were drilled.

“Phases one to four have virtually been completed, processing and interpretation of acquired data is ongoing simultaneously. As at 24th February, 2012, the cumulative coverage of the relevant data stands at 1049.952 square kilometers, representing about 37 percent of the project,” Umoru said.

It was gathered that because of some technical reasons, the data acquisition will exceed the stipulated three years.

Umoru said the overall objective of the partnership between IDSL and BGP was to ensure timely data delivery, incidence free operation; good data quality to enhance hydrocarbon discovery and cordial community relations/neat and green environment.

Apprehension of oil engineers

There is  noticeable apprehension on the side of academics, especially in Maiduguri and environs, who opined that despite the presence of man and machines at the  oil site in the Chad Basin, it will take political will to actualize the dream of lifting the oil.

“We believe the oil is abundant in the Chad Basin…in fact we just need to harness it because it is there in commercial quantity,” Engineer Iliyasu Nazif, who specializes in petroleum and pipeline engineering, said.

“Government must be committed to the project which will definitely stabilize the polity and demystify the acrimony over resource control,” he said

Citing what he described as “the haphazard manner” by which the exploration adventure was carried out along Alkaleri area of Bauchi State, Nazif said, “Three wells were discovered in Alkaleri. One was virtually empty; gas was discovered in the second well but not in commercial quantity; and large deposits of gas was discovered in the third well, which is enough for commercial purpose and further findings,” he said.

According to him, “Unfortunately however, the project was abandoned. This was in sharp contrast with what happened in Oloibiri in southern Nigeria in 1959 when over 50 wells were dug and oil was not found in them. The engineers persevered and continued trying and in the subsequent trials, oil was discovered in commercial quantity,” he said.

“This is the kind of commitment that we want to see in the Chad Basin,” Nazif said.

Why locals believe there is oil in Chad Basin

“The Chad Basin has the same attributes with the areas where oil has been discovered in Niger, Chad and Cameroon,” Bubawo Maritu, a peasant farmer in Kukawa said.

“We were told that a large chunk of oil is found in the desert. I know that Libya is in the desert. I was told that Saudi Arabia, Iran, Iraq and Kuwait are all in the desert and they found their oil in the desert.  As such what then stops Nigeria from finding oil in Kukawa?” Maritu asked, rhetorically, adding, “Kukawa is also in the desert.”

It is believed that the outcry for quick realization of oil exploration in the North, stems from increasing agitation for self determination by oil producing states in the south.

On 24th November, 2010, the Group Managing Director of the NNPC Engineer Austin Oniwon who visited the Chad Basin Base Camp, said oil prospecting in the area remains a critical assignment for the NNPC.

He  added that President Goodluck Jonathan had given the corporation the mandate to evaluate the prospect of commercial quantity of the commodity in the Basin.

According to him, “The whole nation is looking unto us (NNPC) to prove, once and for all, that there is commercial hydrocarbon in Nigeria’s Chad Basin.

“The outcome of our work here (Chad Basin) will prove to the world indeed that there are great prospects of hydrocarbon, which will attract investors to invest in the petroleum industry of our country,” Oniwon said.

On her part, the minister of petroleum resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, was quoted to have expressed optimism about the oil prospect in the Chad Basin.

According to her, “Though it is too early to be categorical, there is a possibility that we may find oil in commercial quantity in the Chad Basin, because of the discoveries of commercial hydrocarbon deposits in neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Sudan, which have similar structural settings with the Chad Basin,” she said.

“Therefore, it is prudent to aggressively explore the Chad Basin for possible hydrocarbon deposits,” she said.

Correlation between Chad Basin and oil communities in neighbouring countries

Findings have shown that in all the countries neighbouring Nigeria, the locations where the oil was discovered have similar structural settings with the Kukawa area of the Chad Basin.

These include places like Doba, Doseo and Bongor in the Republic of Chad. These places have over two billion barrels of oil deposit.

Logone Birni in southern Chad and northern Cameroun, have over 100 billion barrels, while Termit-Agadem Basin in Niger Republic have a total of one billion barrels of oil deposit.

In a recent interview with this reporter, the Shehu of Borno, Alhaji Abubakar Garbai Al-Amin El-Kanemi underscored the need for more attention on the oil exploration in northern Borno.

“I am appealing to the federal government to again to look into the ongoing oil exploration in Northern Borno, because once this project becomes a reality; the state will achieve so many things,” he said.

The monarch cited infrastructural decay in northern Borno as a big challenge for leaders and the masses.

“There is also another serious issue which I am appealing to the federal government to look into seriously. It has to do with access roads for our people. For example, the distance from Kuroskawwa in Kukawa local government (where oil prospecting is ongoing) to Mallam Fatori,  is just a distance of about 100 kilometers or so. But it will take you between three and four hours to reach there by four wheel drive vehicle.

“This is because of the bad nature of the road, and this is a federal government project. I am therefore appealing to the federal government to look into this problem.

“The issue of national grid is another problem for our people. About eight local government areas in Northern Borno are not connected to the national grid. An example is Abadam, which is a border town between Nigeria and Niger. Other areas like Kukawa, Monguno, Nganzai, Ngala, and Mafa among others,  are all not connected with the national grid,” the Shehu said.

The Shehu believes that if the oil in the North will be exploited, there would be social and economic development in the area.

The village head of Kuroskawwa, Mallam Alhaji Alhassan, 75, told Daily Trust in an interview in his house that his people are anxiously waiting to see the beginning of full exploration of the  oil in their localities.

“We have hundreds of youths that are not doing anything apart from subsistence  farming,” he said.

He added that the reactivation of oil prospecting in Kukawa,  has provided menial jobs for his people.

Residents of the area, including Mallam Wali, 27, Usman Alhaji Mamman, 20 and  Ciroma Tela, 32, said they have seen experts working on an expansive land  across many villages, including Kawwa, Mallam Karamti, Doro and Ngarno among many others.

“Many farmlands have been taken over by explorers and they have paid compensation for the land as well as farm produce , and economic trees destroyed, in the course of carrying out the  survey,” the village head said.

However, Ciroma Tela painted a bleak future for thousands of children and youths in the prosperous Kukawa and environs because of their dismal enrolment in formal schools.

“The fact is that unless government empowers us educationally, we would remain as labourers even after the full oil exploration begins,” Tela said.

Our correspondent gathered that about 50 communities around the oil field do not have a single primary school; a development which observers say  will give birth to restive youths,  if phenomenon that will ultimately  affect smooth activity if full oil exploration commenced.

Mallam Yusuf, a community relations officer of IDSL/BGP pointed out the need for full integration of the communities into modernity.

“This is very necessary so as to avoid restiveness when oil exploration begins,” he said.

He pointed out that the IDSL/BGP joint venture had carried out many community projects around the oil fields as part of their social responsibility.

“We have given some communities zinc to erect make shift classes. We have also constructed waterways to prevent some communities from flood,” he said.

Challenges facing the oil prospecting

Part of the challenges facing the oil prospecting along the Chad Basin, include armed banditry, bush fires and its attendant effect on survey; severe temperature, including dust and sandstorm, as well as frequent sinking of vehicles as a result of soft soil.

It was gathered that a Hippopotamus was once sighted in the lake area of the oil prospecting,  and engineers working in the fields have to contend with mosquito bites and other ailments.

Observers believe that the proposal for exploration of oil and gas in the Chad Basin is a welcome development   and that the bold step taken by President Jonathan to revisit the issue for practical action was commendable.

“Our ultimate prayer is that oil prospecting in the Chad Basin will be pursued to  a logical conclusion. Let it not be like the aborted dream of many communities around Alkaleri in Bauchi State, who watched rather helplessly as the multinational oil corporations took away their exploration equipment without any justification,” Kabiru said.

via Daily Trust

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