Nigeria annual conference draws international crowd

More than 1,500 oil and gas professionals from around the globe converged on Abuja, Nigeria during 4–6 August of this year for the SPE Nigeria Annual Conference and Exhibition. With a theme of “Innovating to Meet the Challenges of Global Energy Demand,” the conference explored key industry issues such as finding sustainable solutions for the increasing worldwide energy demand and developing innovative ideas and technologies that will produce hydrocarbons more efficiently.

“Even though this conference was held in Nigeria and was organized by the SPE Nigeria Council, it was very much an international conference,” said Charles Akhigbe, Drilling Fluids Specialists with Shell Nigeria’s Wells Technology and Expertise Support Team and Chairperson of the Conference. “Of the 1,500 attendees, we had many expatriates from Asia, other parts of Africa, and Europe. The vast majority of these attendees were businessmen, representatives of Nigerian government regulatory agencies, banks, technical experts and industry professionals from all major oil and service companies, as well as some research institutions and universities.”

The technical sessions began on 4 August and were sponsored by British Gas Exploration and Production Nigeria. Each technical session had two co-chairs—managers and higher-level executives from major petroleum companies, some of whom are also members of the SPE Nigeria Council. “Participation in the Nigerian council cut across all of the oil companies and many service companies in Nigeria,” Akhigbe said. “We had participants from Shell, ExxonMobil, Addax Petroleum, Total, Schlumberger, Halliburton, Afren, Agip, Chevron, Sapetro, Baker Hughes, Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Oando, Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC),  Platform Petroleum, Global Energy, and Midwestern Oil and Gas.”

The technical sessions included 48 papers spanning all upstream disciplines, from drilling and completions to geosciences, HSE, and management. “There were also case studies, and most focused on wells and field experiences outside of Nigeria. The feedback I received was that the technical sessions were all of high quality,” Akhigbe said. In fact, in a survey after the conference, 68% of responders considered the technical content of the conference to have been very good or excellent.

“As is typical for our conferences, we gave an award to the best technical paper based on recommendations of the Technical Paper Committee,” he continued. “The technical paper session chairs assess each presentation in their session and pass the assessment on to the Technical Paper Committee, who then investigates each assessment and determines the winner. The award this year went to Chukwuma Uguru, Shell Nigeria Regional Petrophysics Discipline Lead, who presented a paper titled ‘A Simple Analytical Model for Vertical Permeability Prediction.'”

Plenaries highlight Nigerian oil industry challenges

The conference included two plenary sessions that discussed topics centered on the future development of field projects and technologies in Nigeria. The first plenary, which took place on 5 August, was titled “Implications and Imperatives of the Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry Reforms” and discussed business and new operating reforms planned by the Nigerian government for the country’s oil and gas industry. “The plenary included a panel of representatives from the Nigerian government and the private sector expressing their opinions on the current business situation in the Nigerian petroleum industry and what the government should incorporate into their reforms to encourage investment in the industry,” said Akhigbe.

Approximately 200 audience members listened to the various presentations were able to provide direct feedback on the planned reforms to the Nigerian government representatives in attendance. “Once a government representative or industry leader give the official position on a particular industry issue, the audience could air other opinions or ask questions during the question and answer sessions,” Akhigbe said. “There were approximately 200 people in attendance for this plenary, including the Special Adviser to the President of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria; John Chaplain, the Managing Director of Mobil Producing Nigeria; Chamberlin Oyibo, Former Group Managing Director of NNPC; Mutiu Sumonu, Managing Director of Shell Nigeria; and Van Querio, Managing Director of Addax Petroleum.”

Other topics included a general discussion on environmental improvements during future oilfield projects, particularly with regards to improving waste and water management, and discussions about recurring security issues in the Niger Delta area. “The militant issue has been a continuing detriment, and the government is talking about trying to improve the development of local communities,” Akhigbe said. “In other words, give the people in these communities more opportunities for advancement and development so they don’t have to resort to criminal and militant activities.”

The second plenary, which took place on 6 August, was titled “Emerging Indigenous Participation in the E&P Industry” and discussed the need for Nigerians to participate in developing the country’s marginal fields. Many of these fields were relinquished by the Nigerian government in 2003 and awarded to various intending marginal field operators, most of whom were retired industry experts and businessmen.

“There were approximately 200 people in attendance for this plenary, including the Technical Advisor to the Minister of Petroleum Resources in Nigeria, Osten Olorunsola; O.A Olaosebikan, the Managing Director of NPDC; Austin Avuru, Managing Director of Platform Petroleum; Shawley Coker, Chairman of Petan and Managing Director of Ciscon; Bank Anthony Okoroafor, Managing Director of Vhelberg Nigeria; George Osahon, Group General Manager for the Nigerian Content Division of NNPC; and Tayo Akinokun, Managing Director, Baker Hughes Nigeria.”

Participants in this plenary discussed the difficulty they have had in getting local banks and financial organizations to finance marginal field development projects. This was mainly attributed to banks not having a firm understanding of how the oil and gas business works and their desire to get a quick return on their investment, which is not always possible. Participants also discussed their own personal experiences in trying to develop these marginal fields.

“We had marginal field operators like Mr. Avuru with Platform Petroleum and Mr. Olaosebikan with NPDC,” said Akhigbe. “They both gave key position paper about their companies’ activities, and how it has been difficult to source partners that can help fund projects. They also discussed how it has been difficult to get banks to understand what they are doing, and even when they get the funding, how it has been difficult to find good service contractors to do the jobs on time and within budget. They also described the current security difficulties they have working in the Niger-Delta area.”