Nigeria annual conference draws international crowd

A government position paper was presented by Osten Olorunsola on behalf of the Minister of Petroleum that outlined how the Nigerian government plans to break NNPC into six independent business units, including an exploratory division, commercial division, general services, and a production sharing contracts division for deep offshore assets. The purpose of this restructuring is to ensure that the divisions operate more efficiently and generate their own funds rather than having to rely on the government.

“Historically, national oil companies have been operating very inefficiently and have been very dependent on the government for their counterpart funding,” Akhigbe said. “The idea is to restructure these NNPC divisions such that they can get better financing and provide and deliver services cost effectively. Plenary attendees discussed examples such as Petrobras, Petronas, and other world class indigenous national oil companies who have grown quickly over the past several years and are very independent.”

Audience members had many questions for the assembled plenary panel, particularly concerning specific points on how the government plans to help the indigenous companies to grow. “The response from the Petroleum Minister’s Technical Adviser was to discuss the reforms, how and why the Nigerian government put these policies in place, and what they are designed to do,” Akhigbe explained. “The idea is that these local companies will have the leverage they need to go to the bank, get money, build their business, and consequently improve the local economy and create jobs.”

Discussions about the future plans for the Nigerian petroleum industry were not limited to the session rooms. Executives and government representatives had several opportunities to continue sharing ideas at the various cocktail parties and dinners.

“The Oil Industry Night and Awards dinner was held on 5 August and sponsored by ExxonMobil,” Akhigbe said, “and we used it as a chance to get government representatives and chief executives of oil companies together to discuss issues in a more informal setting.”

The SPE Nigeria Annual Banquet and Awards, sponsored by Shell Nigeria, was held on 6 August and honored many of the local SPE members who ran the SPE Nigeria organization over the past year and organized the 2007 conference. An award was also given to 2008 SPE President Bill Cobb, honoring his involvement and initiatives in improving the SPE Nigeria section for all of its members.

“The annual banquet was also an opportunity to hear from Nigeria’s Minister of Petroleum and Minister of National Planning,” Akhigbe said. “They gave general talks about what the government is trying to do to reposition the oil industry, streamline operations, and allow investors to see the attractiveness of investing. They reiterated the government’s wishes to eliminate government bureaucracies and make local oil companies easier to run.”

Young professionals garner much discussion

In addition to the main conference, a young professionals (YPs) workshop was held on 3 August which brought together representatives of the various SPE Nigeria student chapters as well as oilfield professionals under the age of 35. The workshop, which was chaired by one of the board members of the SPE Nigeria Council and attended by Mellissa Schultea, Lawrence Slade, Frances Leon (all from the SPE London office), and Bill Cobb,  provided presentations on what YPs are doing now and what is needed to encourage them to participate in more SPE conferences, both in Nigeria and internationally. “It was really about encouraging greater involvement for their own professional development,” Akhigbe said.

A student chapter contest was also held in which each SPE student chapter from across Nigeria made presentations about what they do, gave full reports on their funding, and what they did with the money. They were also ranked by the level of social work and awareness they created amongst their local communities.

“Prior to the YP workshop, Bill Cobb held a meeting with the four SPE Nigeria section chairs,” said Akhigbe. “The purpose of the meeting was to discuss our activity in Nigeria sections and determine what level of support is required. Bill’s final comment was to challenge each section to more fully support both the students and the young members in attending workshops and conferences to encourage their professional growth and also guarantee the future of SPE at the sections.”

The sections were encouraged to reach out more to both their YPs and the companies that employ them. “We are going to have the various section chairmen talk to the management of the various companies in an effort to allow YPs to participate in more SPE conferences,” Akhigbe confirmed.

Ted Moon is the Technology Editor of JPT Online. He brings information on emerging technologies, R&D successes, new field applications, updates from SPE papers about recent innovations, and more. If you have a question or suggestion for future article topics, email Ted at