Explorers look for new round of permits for tar sands in Nigeria

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Explorationists seek new licensing round for oil sand deposits


THE current decline in conventional crude oil reserves has sparked renewed interest in unconventional energy resources from the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE).

  Specifically, the association would want the country to increase its crude oil reserve by encouraging exploration of 40 billion barrels of tar sands deposit in Ondo, Oyo, Ogun and some parts of Edo State.

  Tar sands, also referred to as oil sands are a combination of clay, sand, water, and bitumen, heavy black viscous oil. The oil sands are loose sand or partially consolidated sandstone containing naturally occurring mixtures of sand, clay, and water, saturated with a dense and extremely viscous form of petroleum technically referred to as bitumen (or colloquially tar due to its similar appearance, odour and colour).

  According to the association, Nigeria has over 40 billion barrels of tar sands, which could be exploited to boost the country’s dwindling oil reserves.

  The Vice President of NAPE, Lere Olopade, told The Guardian on the sideline of the association’s July technical meeting, with the theme: “20 Years of Production Sharing Contract (PSC) Deepwater Exploration in Nigeria”, yesterday in Lagos, that the Federal Government should organise oil licencing round to invite investors to the unconventional natural resources.

  Olopade stated: “We should put on our thinking cap as a country and begin to look beyond now.  We are just using the crude oil that we discovered long time ago without an aggressive effort to continue to add to the country’s crude oil reserves. We should embark on strategic plan to reposition ourselves before other African countries take over our position in the area of crude and gas production in the region.  We should look at the unconventional crude oil potentials in the country.  

  “If we can exploit this huge tar sand discovery, it would assist in reducing the country’s unemployment level. I think our leaders should begin to look beyond the Niger Delta areas and begin to explore other regions in the country.

  “Though it may require huge investment, but we need to start somewhere and we need to it to the bid round level.  Government should try and invite investors to take part in the bidding process.  Even if we do not have the technology in the country, I believe that there will be investors from other countries who will be interested in bringing their technological know-how to explore the potential in the country. Canada is making so much money from oil sand and Nigeria should begin to plan on how to capitalize on this natural resources to boost the country crude oil reserves”.

  Speaking on the ’20 Years of PSC Deepwater Exploration in Nigeria’, Executive Director, First Exploration and Petroleum Development Company Limited, Dr. Emmanuel Enu, raised alarm over the dwindling state of the country’s oil and gas resources.

  According to him, activities in the country’s deepwater show that not much addition in terms of crude oil reserves from new discoveries were recorded in the second decade due to charge failure, blown traps and complex geology in the out-board area of the deep offshore.

  Enu said that the enthusiasm that characterised deepwater exploration some 14 years ago has dwindled, adding that only two deepwaters wells were drilled in the country in 2012.

  He said that a couple of companies exited the country between 2007 and 2012 after one to two unsuccessful exploration deep-water wells, which could be described as a period of lowlights in deep water exploration. 

  “Thus, there is the need to better understand the turbidity geology and the petroleum system of the ultra-ultra deep water Nigeria.  The introduction of new fiscal changes is being concluded, these changes should be globally competitive with manageable uncertainties in order to increase investor confidence”, he added.

  He said the country should not under-estimate the potential contribution from unconventional oil to future oil supply in Nigeria.  

  To boost the country’s crude oil reserve, Enu stressed the need for the government to introduce new fiscal changes to ensure global competitiveness and promote investors’ confidence in the oil and gas sector.

  He added: “There is need to improve on the turn around time for the approval process of well proposals to help reduce project cycle time.  Oil companies should support more exploration drilling”.