Experts are of the opinion commitment shown by the Federal Government to build up the nation’s proven reserve through the exploration of new frontiers for oil and gas production remains a step in the right direction.
However, with the New Frontier Exploration Services Division, an arm of the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, commencing preliminary work on seismic data acquisition and processing for exploration in the Chad Basin and other areas classified as frontier inland sedimentary basins, Nigerians are receiving the news with mixed feelings.
The search for oil in the Chad Basin has been on and off for many decades, but now, the exercise has been pegged on a corporate belief that available technologies may now yield results where previous exploratory efforts failed.
Determined to ensure that the latest quest for sustainable oil find in the basin is met with success, the Minister of Petroleum Resources, Mrs. Diezani Alison-Madueke, recently directed the NNPC to leave no stone unturned in its push to strike black gold in the area.
Alison-Madueke was quoted as saying, “Though it is too early to be categorical, there is a possibility that we may find oil in commercial quantity in the Chad Basin because of the discoveries of commercial hydrocarbon deposits in neighbouring countries of Chad, Niger and Sudan, which have similar structural settings with the Chad Basin. Therefore, it is prudent to aggressively explore the Chad Basin for possible hydrocarbon deposits.”
Discoveries made in neighbouring countries in basins with similar structural settings included Doba, Doseo and Bongor, all in Chad, with over two billion barrels; Logone Birni in southern Chad and northern Cameroun with over 100 billion barrels; and Termit-Agadem Basin in Niger, with a total of one billion barrels.
Already, the NFESD is acquiring 3,550 square kilometres of 3-D seismic data for processing and interpretation, in addition to the 6,000km of 2-D data that it acquired earlier and is currently being reprocessed.
Some experts in the oil and gas sector have maintained that there is a huge variance in the make-up and synclines of the Chad Basin and the Niger Delta region, and that any move to rummage around for oil in the area, should be critically scrutinised and certified as being necessary.
This is against the backdrop of insinuations that the search may be to satisfy the urge of some people at the expense of the nation, or to create cost centres that are absolutely unnecessary.
On account of the North not yet spotted as an ‘oil domain’, some experts have maintained that the Chad Basin is only five kilometres, compared to the Niger Delta, which has a 12-kilometre basin, maintaining that the deeper the basin, the more the likelihood that it will contain oil reserve and natural gas.
The syncline of the Chad Basin, according to them, is high, while that of the Niger Delta is low, maintaining that the features show that the geology of the Niger Delta is different from the North and so, the difference in the geological age and activities of the two basins.
But the Federal Government, in spite of the odds against the exercise, noted that it was absolutely determined to make more commitment, both financial and manpower resources, to the exploration activities in the location, a stand that some said could not be far from political motivation.
However, the former Vice- President, Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists, Mr. Biodun Adesanya, says that geologically, it is justified to explore a basin like the Chad in search of black gold, adding that the search should be extended to sedimentary basins like the Benue, Anambra and Dahomey.
According to him, the Chad Basin has over the years enjoyed huge attention from government and oil companies, which had resulted in high level activities, including human and financial resources. Because the project is in its infancy, he says government should pioneer the search, while data acquired can be sold to the private sector in due course to recoup the investment made.
Adesanya says the present phase of exploration in the basin has seen government demanding for previous data analyses, especially as it concerns the Chad. This, he explains, may produce better results as the budget for the project comes from the Presidency, while the technocrats involved are from the NNPC.
Adesanya, who is also the Chief Executive Officer, Bageconek Nigeria Limited, a geoscience consulting firm, points out that in order to make the entire project result-oriented, there should be strict focus on cost control and anti-corruption measures, recalling how unwieldy expenditure and corruption have many government projects.
In order to make remarkable progress in the exercise, the former NAPE boss says that due processes should be followed in the selection of personnel, ”and there must be a honest contracting procedure so that the right prices are quoted for the right jobs.”
He says, “These measures should reduce wastage and ensure that only places requiring special projects are attended to.”
Another geoscientist and Managing Director, Danvic Concepts International Limited, Mr. Afe Mayowa, maintains that even in the Niger Delta, there are areas where oil was initially not found, but with the use of superior technologies for the same locations, oil was later discovered.
For the Chad Basin, he says government needs some level of patience to adequately explore all possible avenues since hydrocarbon had been discovered in Chad, Niger and Cameroon, which are the three geological boundaries of the basin.
According to him, professionalism should be strictly adhered to in the quest for oil in the Chad Basin considering the fact that past research recommendations from the basin advocated the need for more studies and probe.
“A lot of money had gone down the drain as a result of the failed oil exploration projects. Since we have not found oil in the Chad Basin yet in commercial quantity, government should be very prudent. Let everybody do their own work. Professionalism is key here since we are still exploring,” Mayowa stresses.