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Oriental Energy Resources Limited – Evolution of a Leading Nigerian Indigenous Operator
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Africa Oil Week Conference, Cape Town South Africa
Oriental Energy Resources Limited – Oriental – has been a leader and an innovator among Nigeria’s indigenous-owned oil companies from its inception in 1990, when Oriental became one of the ten original Nigerian-owned upstream oil companies formed under the auspices of the Indigenous Operator Program initiated by Nigeria’s then Honorable Minister of Petroleum Resources, with the goal of establishing a functioning independent upstream oil industry in Nigeria similar to those in Europe and North America.
These ten newly incorporated 100% Nigerian-owned oil companies became the Founders, and the exploration license blocks they were subsequently awarded became the Foundation of what is today’s Nigerian Indigenous Upstream Oil Industry, which was later greatly expanded by the Government’s 2001 Marginal Field Bid Round, that awarded 25 “marginal fields” discovered by NNPC and its various IOC Joint Venture partners but not developed within 10 years from discovery, and which were voluntarily ceded by them back to the Government in time for the 2001 Marginal Field Bid Round.
Under the terms of the Indigenous Program, the Government replaced the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation as statutory Concessionaire in each awarded Indigenous License with the Indigenous Company whom it mandated to be the License Operator with a 60% minimum title ownership, making it possible for the Indigenous Company to negotiate a farm-out and assignment of the remaining 40% interest by farm-in to a Government-approved foreign partner.
Recognizing the need of the Indigenous Operator to gain experience in this complex industry as well as taking into account the large capital requirements of even small upstream projects, the Government permits the parties to negotiate mutually agreeable commercial terms including the temporary transfer of certain of the Operator’s rights and obligations to the foreign partner who then acts as Technical Advisor to the Operator until the Indigenous Company has acquired the requisite experience and staff to assume their full duties as Operator in fact.
Following Government’s assignment of the offshore acreage block designated OPL 224, located circa 30 miles offshore southeastern-most Niger Delta in water depths averaging 150 feet, Oriental was joined by major IOC Conoco in 1991, whereupon together Oriental and Conoco fulfilled the Government’s mandated Work Program requirements between 1991 and 1994 by acquiring 1000 km of new 2D seismic and drilled three exploration wells, which found hydrocarbons including a large gas accumulation in one well but were not commercially successful. Following fulfilment of its mandated work program and the departure of Conoco, in 1999 Oriental was successful in converting its OPL-224 exploration license into the OML-115 oil mining lease with a twenty-year initial term.
In 2000 Oriental contracted US independent Sovereign Oil & Gas to assist with securing project financing and industry partners to develop its OML-115 lease block, resulting in the Canadian major IOC Nexen joining Oriental in OML-115 in December 2003.
Commencing in 2001 with Oriental’s Sovereign-supported successful petition to acquire the farm-in rights to the undeveloped oil discovery blocks Okwok and Ebok Fields from Mobil-NNPC’s prolific OML-67, and after protracted persistent negotiations Oriental executed the farm-in of first Okwok in 2006 and then Ebok in 2007 as Marginal Fields, which led to Oriental’s first successful oil test in the Okwok-4 Sidetrack in Okwok Field with 40% partner Swiss independent Addax Petroleum in 2006, and Oriental’s first commercial oil production from the 40,000 bopd Ebok Field in April 2011, with its farm-in partner, the UK AIM-listed Afren Plc.
In both the Okwok and Ebok Fields, Oriental contracted with its respective partners Addax and Afren to perform the role of Technical Advisor until such time as Oriental would be certified to have acquired the requisite upstream experience and qualified professional staff to perform the role of Operator in fact. The true magic of the Oriental story is that after having been in the upstream oil business for nearly thirty years, in the past four years Oriental has shown that it is possible to build a world class upstream international oil exploration and production company without the need for extensive expatriate staff in key technical and managerial positions. Oriental has proven that an African indigenous upstream oil company whose professional staff and management are drawn from the major oil companies’ highly trained indigenous personnel can both survive and thrive in our highly competitive industry.
Today Oriental is widely recognized as a leader among Nigeria’s independent oil (marginal field) producers and a first-class offshore oil field and export terminal Operator, who has fully confirmed the vision, viability and success of the Nigerian Government’s Indigenous Operator Program.
Remarkably, in only four year’s since Afren’s 2015 shocking implosion, Oriental has completely reinvented itself, from a non-operating partner who relied upon Afren Plc to perform essentially all technical aspects of producing the Ebok field, to a fully-fledged first class operator, having recovered from the Afren Plc bankruptcy in 2015 by Oriental’s orderly but rapid assumption of 100% of the ownership, control, and responsibility for the operation of the 100 MMBO Ebok field, at the time producing circa 30,000 barrels of oil per day.
Oriental’s production team employs international best practices and has set production records that would be the envy of any established international operator. In the last four years Oriental has assumed 100% of the funding obligations for the operations, maintenance, and reserve replacement in the Ebok Field that has produced more than 75 million barrels of Ebok crude oil to date, and during this period Oriental has drilled exploration and appraisal wells, infill production wells, water and gas injectors, and water disposal wells.
Among its other recent accomplishments, Oriental has undertaken the refurbishment of the 50,000 barrel a day production facilities, including both the Central and West fault block platforms where all production and water injection wellheads are located, as well as being in process of completing the in situ refurbishment of the one million barrel dedicated Ebok FSO Export Terminal.
Most recently, Oriental has funded the entire cost of drilling the Ebok 45-Deep exploration well to a total depth exceeding 9,000 feet subsea, resulting in two new pool oil discoveries with estimated recoverable reserves approaching the nearly eighty million barrels that have been produced from the Ebok Field to date. In addition, Oriental as 88% interest owner and Operator, together with 12% partner Addax, is developing the circa 40MMBO Okwok Field, with wellhead jacket previously installed and topsides slated for January 2020 installation, after drilling six Okwok appraisal wells and one producer, with a purpose-built FPSO construction soon to commence and First Oil anticipated in the first half of 2021.
In the first half of 2020 Oriental plans to commence a major marketing campaign of certain interests in its existing offshore Nigeria assets to qualified prospective partners, having recently obtained Government approval for its legacy block OML-115 for a new twenty-year term under terms which include a zero-relinquishment provision. OML-115 includes an oil discovery adjacent to the Okwok Field, and several large potential exploration prospects defined by a block-wide circa $40 million state of the art four-component 3D seismic survey acquired in 2012, the same seismic data set that was used to define Oriental’s recent successful exploration well Ebok-45, that has tapped a significant new pool of light oil in acreage adjacent to OML-115.
To summarize, Oriental is Nigeria’s leading indigenous offshore (marginal field) operator and oil producer, and a founding member of Nigeria’s Indigenous Operator Program. Oriental is the 100% interest owner of OML-115 and the Ebok Field in OML-67, and the 88% interest owner of the Okwok Field in OML-67. In Oriental’s nearly 30-year history, it has partnered with Conoco, Nexen, Mobil-NNPC, Addax Petroleum, Energy Equity Resources, and Afren Plc.
In 2001 Oriental conceived and initiated its successful farm-in to the Mobil-NNPC Okwok and Ebok discovered but undeveloped oil fields. Oriental is the only company to ever farm-in to Mobil-NNPC’s prolific OML-67 producing area in south-eastern offshore Nigeria, where it has earned the highly favourable assessment and regard of ExxonMobil and NNPC over its eleven-year history as the Farmee, developing and operating the Ebok Field safely, efficiently, profitably, and in an environmentally sound manner, and in full accord with the standards of ExxonMobil and the Government of Nigeria.
Oriental’s recent Ebok-45 Deep Discovery promises to deliver a potential recoverable reserve of a similar or greater scale than both Ebok and Okwok Fields. Oriental has been responsible from Day One to maintain all of its licenses in good standing with the Government, to acquire all permits and licenses for the circa $4 billion Ebok Development and its 45 wells drilled to date. Since 2015 Oriental has completed the acquisition of 100% of the Ebok Field equity, and is bearing 100% of the Ebok Field production costs, as well as the recent deep exploration discovery well costs and of the future planned Ebok exploration and appraisal drilling program.
Oriental is the Operator of the Okwok Field currently under development with a well-head and FPSO development solution that has its FDP approved and under way to deliver First Oil in mid-2021. From Oriental’s recent organic exploration successes and the conservative reserve potential Oriental anticipates achieving gross production from the combined Ebok and Okwok Fields of circa 50,000 bopd by year-end 2023 and has set a corporate goal of attaining100,000 bopd by year-end 2028.
The Government’s Petroleum Regulators are using Oriental as a shining example of excellence among Nigeria’s upstream operators owing to its innovation, regulatory compliance and the high premium Oriental places on health, safety and environmental issues.
For more information regarding Oriental’s upcoming 2020 Marketing Campaign, please monitor the Oriental website at www.oriental-er.com and monitor the public and industry press for further Oriental announcements.
- Ricardo Ramirez
Tel: +1 281-513-2000, +1 832-562-2606
- Obehi Eremiokhale
Tel: +234 8159194199
- Samuel Umukoro