West African trends hold challenges

A roundtable discussion following lunch at the Offshore West Africa Conference & Exhibition on Tuesday, March 21, explored West African trends.

Offshore staff

ABUJA, Nigeria -- A roundtable discussion following lunch at the Offshore West Africa Conference & Exhibition on Tuesday, March 21, explored West African trends.

G.U. Billy Agha, who serves on the Nigeria Board of Governor West Africa Gas Pipeline Authority and is deputy director, gas, Department of Petroleum Resources for Nigeria, headed up the informal discussion that included comments from representatives from Shell, Total, and Addax Petroleum.

Agha identified the three topics of discussion: reservoir issues, reserves growth, and political issues.

Kingsley Ojoh of Total opened the discussion, noting that of the five petroleum basins offshore West Africa, the Niger Delta and Lower Congo basin are the drivers for business in the region.

Alex Neyin of Addax Petroleum voiced his agreement with Ojoh. "Today, it is getting clearer that this is where the action is," Neyin said.

Neyin identified the need to improve the educational system and to invest in technology development within Nigeria as trends the country needs to pursue. Though these are obstacles, Neyin said, they are not insurmountable problems.

Neyin said the United States identified West Africa in 2002 as an area that should be a source of hydrocarbons for US use. His view is that Nigeria needs to work on becoming that source.

"I think this region is going to be the hub of energy for the future," Neyin said.

Oliver Onyewuenyi of Shell Exploration & Production cautioned against excessive optimism regarding West Africa's offshore. "There aren't too many more world-class discoveries we can expect," he said.

Onyewuenyi said smaller fields will need to be produced. "We can expect to see more medium-sized volumes in scattered fields that are more difficult to develop," he said.

Producing smaller fields will take more money, Onyewuenyi said. As Nigerian developments move forward, alliances will be increasingly more important, as will the fact that Nigeria is competing for a limited number of rigs and is drawing from a personnel pool that is far too small. "We cannot always count on attracting expatriates," he said.

Agha concluded the discussion with a summary of the issues. Taking everything into account, Agha believes there is reason for optimism. "Overall, I think we have a very bright future," he said.

3/21/2007

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