Austin Avuru

Austin AvuruIndigenous companies have been present within Nigeria’s oil and gas sector for a considerable period of time but have only really come to prominence within the last decade through the allocation of certain marginal fields to local companies in 2003 and more recently with the divestment of key oil blocks to indigenous companies by some of the multinational oil companies. The changing dynamics of the industry has given rise to a spate of Nigerian independents which have come about through strategic partnerships and a realisation that with adequate expertise and resources, the Nigerian oil and gas industry is ripe enough for a paradigm shift away from the traditional multinational oil company structure that has dominated for so long. In this five part feature, Energy Mix Report looks at five key independents that are either currently making an impact, or that are likely to make a major impact on the Nigerian oil and gas sector in the coming years.

SEPLAT

In 2004, Platform Petroleum Limited run by Austin Avuru, acquired the license to the Asuokpu/Umutu marginal field (later renamed Egbeoma) from Shell and subsequently became sole operator of the field. Within a few years Platform had brought the field into production with its first output commencing in September 2007. The early development of the field located in OML 38 in the north central Niger Delta led to the testing and completion of two wells, the commissioning of a 10,000 bpd flow station and the construction of a 48km pipeline linking Umutu towards ENI’s export Kwale facility. Furthermore, Platform was able to record 24 months of continuous crude oil production with less than two percent production deferment; was able to improve the integrity of facilities including the flow station, pipelines and gas plant that would be able to inject 100mt per day of liquefied petroleum gas (LPG) into the local market and was also able to establish an efficient crude handling and sales arrangement with the ENI group.

In 2009, Platform entered into a joint venture with the ABC Orjiakor led Shebah Exploration and Production Company Limited, another small Nigerian independent and Seplat was born. Seplat was registered as a special purpose vehicle for the acquisition of 45% interest in oil mining licenses (OMLs) 4, 38 and 41; three blocks in the onshore western Niger Delta which were divested by Shell, TOTAL and ENI. Maurel and Prom, a French independent with a track record of exploration and production in other African countries such as Tanzania, Gabon, Mozambique and Republic of Congo decided to make their first investments in West Africa by acquiring a 45% stake in Seplat while Platform and Shebah held on to 55% so as to maintain the indigenous status of the company.

Avuru’s diligence and expertise in management of the marginal field asset was part of the reason Shell once again considered him as one of the preferred bidders while divesting their assets in OMLs 4, 38 and 41 and he eventually emerged as the Managing Director of Seplat based on his performance in the management of Platform Petroleum. The newly formed company took over a 45% operatorship stake in five producing fields and 10 undeveloped discoveries, covering about 2650 sq km in the north western Niger Delta. In just over four years of its inception Seplat has reached gross production of 50,000 bpd in the three acreages which it operates and its gas production volume is 90 million cubic feet per day, recently causing a leading industry analyst to herald the company as “Africa’s biggest private oil company”.

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