Nigeria’s Oil Rigs Count Stagnates, Despite February Crude Production Growth

Nigeria’s Oil Rigs Count Stagnates, Despite February Crude Production Growth

Emmanuel Addeh in Abuja

Despite adding about 48,000 barrels per day in February, Nigeria’s oil rigs count stagnated at 13 during the month, THISDAY analysis of the latest data released by the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) has revealed.

Hope of new investment in the oil and gas sector in the country grew markedly in January when Nigeria’s oil rigs count rose markedly from six to 13 between January 2022 and the same period in 2023 as earlier indicated by Baker Hughes figures.

But the velocity has now been slowed, with the February data showing that no new rigs came into the country, although there has been an improvement in the volume of oil drilled, which is still significantly lower by at least 500,000 bpd.

In January, the rigs hit over a dozen, up from 12 in December and up from six one year ago, marking a major positive change of 8.33 per cent from November last year and a whopping 116.7 per cent from one year ago.

However, new information from OPEC’s Monthly Oil Market Report (MOMR) released this March, showed that expectations that the rigs count could hit 14 this month did not materialise.

There had also been hope of additional rigs when offshore contractor, Dolphin Drilling, which in February had one of its semi-submersible rigs on its way to Nigeria, was expected to start its new drilling campaign.

In addition, Blackford Dolphin had departed Las Palmas and was already en route Nigeria, following a successful shipyard campaign, which enabled the recertification for a further five years. It appeared from the data that they had yet to begin operation as of the second month of this year.

 Nigeria’s oil output had begun to rebound since October last year, after a multi-decade low of 900,000 bpd, with the rate of growth rising to 28,000 barrels per day increase in January and 48,000 bpd in February, to hit 1.3 million bpd during the month.

But the figure was lower when compared to the over 55,000 bpd increase in December, according to data from the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC), but much better than the 28,000 bpd January production figure and the 48,000 bpd drilling in February.

While production in December, the previous month, was 1.235 million bpd, the January oil output was 1.258 million bpd, while the February figure stood at 1.306 million bpd.

But the OPEC data indicated that while Nigeria’s average rigs count was 11 in 2020, it was seven in 2021, 10 in 2022, but had recently grown to 13 as new investments began trickling into the country.

But as opposed to Nigeria’s 13 rigs, the United States  as of February, according to the OPEC MOMR data, had 758 oil rigs, Canada had 248, while Mexico had 46, bringing the Americas’ total to 1,954 rigs.

In Africa, Algeria had 31 while Angola had nine oil rigs as of February. Besides, Iran’s rigs were 117, Iraq’s were 62, Libya had 12  even as Saudi Arabia had 77 and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) had 54.

In total, OPEC members’ rig count were 407 while world rig count stood at 2,004, an increase of 22 rigs during the month.

According to the Baker Hughes data, in January 2022, Nigeria’s oil rigs were six, but rose to eight in February and then to 10 in March. It stated that this figure increased and remained stagnant at 11 in April, May, June and July respectively.

In addition, as Nigeria’s oil production struggled, the country’s oil rigs count fell further to 10 in August and dipped even further in September to seven and eight in October.

But as the country’s production started to improve in November 2022, the rigs count increased to 10, before shooting up to 12 and 13 in December 2022 and January, 2023 respectively and stagnating at the figure in February.

In other years, a THISDAY analysis revealed that Nigeria’s oil rigs count fell from 16 to eight between 2019 and 2022, underscoring the magnitude of challenges the country has faced in producing its OPEC monthly allocation.

The MOMR showed that while the average rigs count was 16 in 2019, it fell to 11 to 2020, and then further to seven in 2021.

While the Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPC) has put current production at over 1.6 million bpd, the NUPRC and OPEC peg the number at 1.3 million bpd. OPEC calculations exclude condensates.

In recent times, the country’s active rigs had progressively decreased, but was made worse after Nigeria began shutting down many of its offshore platforms as oil prices took a downward slope and the producers’ group embarked on production curbs to stabilise the market in 2020, following the upsurge of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Furthermore, there has been massive underinvestment in the sector, leading to depleting oil rigs.

Despite the remarkable recovery in global crude oil demand, Nigeria had been unable to ramp up production, following massive theft of the resource in the Niger Delta as well as shutdowns due to frequent equipment failure.

In the oil and gas industry, the rig count is a major index for measuring activities in the upstream sector.

While for instance, 26 rigs were in operation, on both onshore and offshore terrains, in 1997, Nigeria has had the number remarkably depleted in recent years.

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