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How Nigeria can become a leading oil and gas supplier to the European market

Nigeria has the potential to increase its oil and gas exports to Europe by ramping up production and increasing investment in exploration and infrastructure development

APART from retaining its position amongst the leading oil and gas producers in Africa in 2022, Nigeria, with over 37 billion barrels of crude oil reserves, has the potential to improve its energy exports to Europe and help address anticipated crude oil and natural gas shortages.

With the European Union planning to ban crude oil imports from Russia by increasing trade with other non-Russian economies and the Russian government promising to cut gas supplies if sanctions from western countries continue, potential supply disruptions to Europe are anticipated. Accordingly, the west African country is expected to ramp up production in 2022 and retain its position as Africa’s largest crude oil producer, a development that will enable Nigeria to increase its energy capacity available for exports.

Nigeria’s annual crude oil production is expected to increase to 1.46 million bpd in 2022, following low production levels in 2021 that were driven by the Covid-19 pandemic. This will provide an opportunity for Nigeria to increase its exports to Europe, become a global energy hub and to fully make use of its hydrocarbon resources for economic growth. Nigeria heavily relies on its offshore projects to sustain crude oil production and supply, with 65 percent of the country’s total production in 2022 anticipated to come from such projects. However, this will change with Nigeria’s crude oil production anticipated to decline in 2023 onwards due to decreases in production in legacy fields. Nigeria will have to wait for deep water projects to come online to improve its production capacity, according to the African Energy Chamber’s (AEC) Q1 2022 Outlook.

‘Nigeria needs to ramp up crude oil production on existing discoveries that have not yet materialised to be able to sustain a secure supply in future to meet local, regional and international demand. Lifting of force majeure at the Brass terminal, Bonny NLNG and Okpai Power Plant comes at the right time. We have to continue paying attention on vandalism, sabotage and theft in oilfields. The close collaboration between the government and Industry could not be more important now’ said NJ Ayuk, Executive Chairman of AEC.

Meanwhile, on the gas front, Nigeria’s massive production capacity in 2022 will place the country among the top three producers in Africa and a potential supplier to meet demand in Europe. Nigeria has an estimated gas reserve of 209 trillion cubic feet and will produce 1,780 billion cubic feet in 2022, up from 1,450 billion feet in 2021. Existing producing projects and the projects currently under development in Nigeria are expected to ensure a resilient supply through 2025. With this portfolio, Nigeria has an advantage for Europe to look up to the west African country as a potential supplier.

In addition, the multi-billion 4,128km Trans-Saharan Natural Gas Pipeline being built by the governments of Nigeria, Niger and Algeria will enable the integration of Trans-Mediterranean, Maghreb-Europe, Medgaz, and Galsi Pipelines for Europe to leverage west and north Africa’s oil and gas resources to meet demand. Once completed, the pipeline will transport 30 billion cubic metres of natural gas per year and Nigeria, as a leading producer in Africa, can produce a significant share of that capacity.

‘Nigeria is rich in oil and gas resources but still does not have adequate infrastructure such as a functioning refinery. In order to utilise its oil and gas resources effectively, Nigeria needs to build more infrastructure locally to process its energy. To be able to build the infrastructure needed, there is a need for direct involvement from a combination of the private and public sector partners,’ stated Hendrick Malan, the CEO of energy market research firm, Frost & Sullivan, in an exclusive interview with the AEC.

Additionally, Nigeria’s current natural gas producing fields are expected to see a steep decline as we approach mid-2020s, a worrying situation that can reduce the country’s production capacity. Majors including ExxonMobil, Shell and TotalEnergies, who have been top producers of oil and gas in Nigeria, are expected to diversify their portfolios from 2022 onwards and exit the market, a move that might negatively affect production and reduce the ability of the West African country to expand its energy exports to Europe. ExxonMobil has already signed a $1.2bn deal with local firm Seplat Energy to handover four oil mining licenses and natural gas recovery plants. Factors such as vandalism of infrastructure, a continued lack of investment in new exploration activities and political instability/civil unrest in oil and gas rich regions of Nigeria also continue to disrupt the country’s ability to optimize oil and gas production and increase exports.

Regulatory reforms and market improvement

The recent enactment of the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) is a game changer for Nigeria’s oil and gas market with the regulation anticipated to increase the entrance of international majors and investors. The PIA is expected to provide clarity to market players on issues around taxation, investment and licensing, that have previously slowed down projects’ deployment. The law will boost investment in oil and gas upstream activities to improve exploration, production, infrastructure development and the country’s energy portfolio.

Despite efforts the Nigerian government has implemented to improve its oil and gas market, the country’s hydrocarbon energy resources remain untapped. Nigeria has not been able to fully leverage its oil and gas reserves to meet local demand and to increase exports. Currently, 50 percent of the Nigerian population is living in energy poverty.

 

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