The Nigerian National Petroleum Company Limited (NNPCL) and OML 18 Energy Limited have replaced Eroton as the operator of the Joint Venture (JV) investment in OML 18, as the venture’s oil production fell to zero from 30,000 barrels per day.
According to a statement by NNPCL, the non-operating Joint Venture (PV) partners of OML 18 have appointed NNPC Eighteen Operating Limited as the operator of OML 18 to replace Eroton Exploration and Production Limited (Eroton).
This is to curtail further asset degradation and revamp oil and gas production, as the state oil company revealed on its official Twitter handle.
“In order to protect JV investment in OML 18, the non-operating partners, NNPC Limited (55 percent interest) and OML 18 Energy Limited (16.20 percent interest), jointly owning 71.20 percent equity, removed Eroton as operator of the JV,” NNPC said.
“This is in line with the provisions of the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA), NNPC Limited and OML 18 Energy further appointed NNPC Eighteen Operating Limited as operator of the JV.”
The state oil company also said that the change in operatorship has been notified to the Nigerian Upstream Regulatory Commission (NUPRC) and communicated to Eroton.
“While the key business reasons that made the change in operatorship are compelling, it is publicly available information that production has declined from thirty thousand barrels per day (30,000 bpd) to zero,” it said.
“The persisting inability of Eroton to meet the fiscal obligations of the Federal Government led to the sealing of Eroton’s head office in Lagos by the Federal Inland Revenue Service (FIRS) for more than twelve months due to non-payment of outstanding taxes to the Government.”
NNPCL said that Eroton cannot remit to the JV parties the proceeds of gas supplied to its affiliate, NOTORE. A number of audits and investigations, including by the Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC), NURPC’s work programme audit and others, have been undertaken or are ongoing.
It said: “Some of these audits are regulatory steps that may lead to licence revocation under the relevant Laws if non-operating partners do not take drastic steps.
“NNPCL, in particular, as the majority shareholder with a unique stewardship responsibility to the Federation, is committed to assuring that the energy and financial security of the Country is uppermost in its business decisions.”
According to the oil company, removing an operator in these circumstances is therefore inevitable in order to protect the JV from Governmental or third parties action from entities, including Eroton’s lenders and other service providers.
“It is important to highlight that OML 18 is an oil-producing block covering 1,035 square kilometres located south of Port Harcourt and contains 11 oil and gas fields with about 714 Million Stock Tank Barrels (MMSTB) of oil and condensate and 4.7 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas reserves,” it said.
“Eight fields have been developed, but only four are currently producing: Cawthorne Channel, Awoba, Akaso, and Alakiri.”
In 2014, Eroton acquired the 45 percent interest previously owned by Shell – 30 percent, Total – 10 percent, and NAOC – five percent, in the then NNPC/SPDC/Total/Agip OML 18 JV.
Following the equity acquisition, Eroton became NNPC’s partner in the OML 18 JV, and Eroton was designated as the Operator in accordance with relevant provisions of the Joint Operating Agreement (JOA) between the parties.
Subsequently, in 2018, Eroton farmed-out part of its equity to OML 18 Energy Resource Limited – 16.20 percent and Bilton Energy Limited – 1.80 percent.
“From 2016 to date, OML 18’s net crude oil production has significantly fallen from approximately thirty thousand barrels per day (30,000 bpd) to zero production, despite consistent compliance to the joint venture’s funding obligations by the JV partners over the same period,” NNPCL said.
“In recognition of the impact of the challenges in crude evacuation via the Nembe Creek Trunk Line (NCTL), the operator proposed and partners approved an Alternative Crude Oil Evacuation Process by barging. Eroton cannot execute this alternative, leading to the current zero production status of the asset.”
NNPC Eighteen Operating Limited has taken control of the operational and production assets in the block and is currently engaging the relevant stakeholders, including workers’ unions. Communities, amongst others, to restore operations to their full capability and secure value for all partners and the Federation.