President Goodluck Jonathan
By Ejiofor Alike
Oil and gas industry experts at the first Energy Policy Strategy Session organised by Emerald Energy Institute for Energy Economics, Policy and Strategic Studies of the University of Port Harcourt have expressed concern over the country’s declining crude oil reserves and failure to meet production targets.
To mitigate the slide in Nigeria’s fortunes, the experts called on the National Assembly and President Goodluck Jonathan to speed up the passage of the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB).
The event, which was held in Lagos, featured a keynote presentation by the President of Washington-based GWEST LLC, Mr. Paul Michael Wihbey.
In his presentation titled, “Strategic Developments in the Middle East and Implications for the Nigerian Oil Industry”, Wihbey, who is also a visiting scholar at Emerald Energy Institute, attributed the decline to several factors.
He identified factors ranging from uncertainties in the Nigerian environment as a result of the stalled PIB, to new advances like shale oil and “fracking”, a being responsible for Nigeria’s current woes.
Wihbey also pointed out that Nigeria was not doing enough to achieve its production potential and was in essence committing economic suicide by not meeting three million barrels per day production target.
But many contributors, including the Director-General of the Nigerian Institute of International Affairs, Professor Bola Akinterinwa, argued that unproduced oil was not a disadvantage.
According to him, it was better to leave the oil as reserves than to be produced only for the proceeds to be frittered away by corrupt politicians.
Akinterinwa said the country should leave the crude oil unproduced until she was developed enough to utilise all the raw materials from petroleum for industrialisation, adding that the raw materials are currently being wasted.
According to him, when Nigeria becomes developed, she would need the raw materials and if they had been depleted, industrialisation may be stunted.
However, Chairman of Emerald Energy Resources Limited and former Presidential Adviser on Petroleum, Dr. Emmanuel Egbogah, debunked insinuations that Nigerian crude oil and gas reserves were about to be exhausted.
Egbogah noted that there could be 100 to 200 years more of crude oil and gas production in the country.
He said Nigeria was already on the path to development, stressing that the country needed all the resources she could muster to actualise this dream.
He said by producing hydrocarbons, Nigeria would earn capital, critical for development, adding: “Nobody knows what value can be gotten from oil in the future, with advances in technology and renewable energy”.
The Director of the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR), Mr. Osten Olorunsola, expressed concern that for the first time in Nigeria’s history there was an actual decline in reserve estimates.
He wondered what would happen between 2014 and 2017 in terms of oil and gas production, since according to him, no major investments have been recorded in exploration in the last five years.
Olorunsola also noted that the ongoing trend in which International Oil Companies (IOCs), specifically, Shell, ConocoPhillips and BG divest from Nigeria and invest in East Africa was not a good signal and called for quick passage of the PIB.