Over three months after the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) started drilling activities at the spud-in of Kolmani River-II Well in Gongola Basin in Bauchi, petroleum industry stakeholders have expressed divergent views over the delay in making commercial find.
Although the Group Managing Director, NNPC, Maikanti Baru, told journalists at the commencement of activities that result of the hydrocarbon exploration would be announced in 60 days, but drilling has lingered for over 120 days.Chief Executive Officer, Mudiame International Limited, and Mudiame Welding Institute Limited, Sunny Eromosele, said keeping the findings secret would only lead to lack of trust, and create speculations among Nigerians.
While noting that if productive, the search would enhance Nigeria’s reserves base, he however expressed concern that the activities were not transparent and accountable, especially as the exploration activities in the inland basins have already gulped the country’s resources and time.
This is further compounded by the fact that the financial details of the search for hydrocarbon resources in the north have remained a big kept secret at the NNPC Towers, but analysts estimate that over $3 billion had already gone down the drain before drilling activities started in the Gongola Basin.
Eromosele therefore said: “If people must trust them (NNPC), there is a need for information on the activities. We have wasted so much money searching for oil in the inland basins despite the fact that we have not been able to fully develop what we have in the Niger Delta region. It is good if we find oil there, but we could as well channel these resources into the economic diversification plans.
“The government said they want to diversify the economy to agriculture and other areas. Why investing in same oil and gas they want to move away from?“They are frustrating and setting the country back by wasting the little resources gotten from oil. Let them proved to us evidence of what they have done. The earlier, the better, because the world is moving on without Nigeria; and investors are moving to East of Africa because they offer better policies,” Eromosele said.
Chairman, Petroleum Technology Association of Nigeria (PETAN), Bank-Anthony Okoroafor, however said the Corporation must be encouraged in the attempt to explore for hydrocarbons in the inland basins, insisting that the search if productive would attract private investors.
Like other Nigerians, Okoroafor said he does not have the details of the drilling activities, saying: “It is difficult to really say whether there is a delay or not. Unless someone has the daily reports that is when you can tell exactly what is happening. The daily report will give the status of what is happening every day. But I know they have gone very far. But you know it is more exploratory; they may go further so that they can evaluate all the reserves. They need to be encouraged, because it is only government that is able to fund this kind of exploratory work,” he stated.
Chief Executive Officer, Degeconek, and former President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE), Abiodun Adesanya, said the delay currently being experienced is not unexpected, considering that drilling activities are relatively new in the area.
Adesanya noted that although Shell had drilled Kolmani River-1 (KR-1) in the region before to a total depth shallower than the planned depth for KR-2, but the best estimation would be the extent to which Shell had reached then.He argued that drilling deeper than that point would be in an untested zone, therefore delays could be due to unforeseen challenges.
Adesanya said: “I don’t know the specific challenges they may be having, but I know that it is not unexpected. The challenges could be the slower rate of penetration or rapid changes of the drill bit due to frequent replacement due to harder rock formations they are drilling through. There may be all sorts of other technical challenges like pressure, stuck pipes, fishing etc.
“The only thing that may have made them stay engaged this long could be the encouraging results they are getting. Again, we don’t know for sure because no formal announcement has been made.”In his contribution, the Director, Centre for Petroleum, Energy Economics and Law (CPEEL), University of Ibadan, Prof. Adeola Adenikinju, who opined that NNPC needed to be encouraged, also said there was a need for update on the activities at the site.
“It is important for the NNPC to inform Nigerians on what they have done and where they are. They also need to tell the public how much has been committed into the project,” Adenikinju said.No matter the argument, the Federal Government has reiterated it would not relent on the search for oil in the northern region, even as past efforts had yielded no commercial success.