Why Nigeria Lng Has Been Restricted in Development

Delays in Brass LNG Project Takeoff

The Brass LNG project, estimated to be among the biggest natural gas projects in the world in terms of its capacity, is failing to woo investors. The previous anticipation of the company’s expected production performance now appears to be unrealistic because investors who were expected to boost the performance have since developed little interest in it.

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Part of the reason why the Brass LNG project has failed to court strategic investment has been PIB’s delayed passage. The project is set to be delayed even further in anticipation of the Federal Government’s intervention with the contents of the bill being the subject of criticism from the IOCs operating in Nigeria. These are also considered as the frontrunner investors. However, the Federal Government has been showing very little signs of giving in to the pressures of the IOCs concerning the bill, a move that could further extend the delay in project development. As this important LNG project fails to kickoff as had been projected, Nigeria continues to lose out on potential revenues that would have otherwise been realized as a result of gas exports to the international market. The domestic power situation also continues to experience challenges as there are no serious signs of improvement being registered any soon.

Trans-Sahara Gas Pipeline Scheme

The planned gas pipeline project that would traverse the Sahara transporting Nigeria’s natural gas via Algeria all the way to Europe has been stalled. There are indications that it may fail to take off as planned, despite the project’s plans having been signed back in 2002 and the commencement date set for 2015. The PIB’s delayed passage is particularly the critical issue of concern behind the stalled project as investors remain non-committal at least, for now, owing to the uncertainty that surrounds the new oil sector reforms.

“Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC)” reiterates that the project is alive, but the corporation also realizes that there is a shortage of finances to see the project through, thus the need to incorporate private investors to inject required funds. The Trans-Sahara gas pipeline is estimated to cost $10 billion for the entire project, with an additional $3 billion required for establishing gas-gathering centers along the pipeline’s course. Analysts in the industry further warn that the delay in passing the PIB continues to affect the project as the IOCs would not wish to enter into agreements in deals that would offer little business opportunity. Once completed, the project would help Nigeria sell at most 30 billion cubic feet of its LNG to the lucrative European market every year.

‘The Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Project’

NLNG began operating in 1999, and it is a unique facility in Nigeria as far as LNG exploitation is concerned. The project has been undertaken in phases since its inception back in 1999, with the current capacity of production standing at 1.1 TCF every year. However, further plans to increase the capacity of its production by up to 8 million metric tons each year through the introduction of the seventh train have been threatened by the regulatory issues cited in the PIB.

The project will have to begin later than the initially scheduled date of 2014 due to delays within the PIB. It is worth noting that the NLNG project has a majority of the IOCs, including Total, Eni, and Shell, as its significant investors. The same IOCs have been outraged by the government’s intentions to introduce the PIB in its original shape, citing difficult business conditions that are propagated by the bill. The decision to have NLNG expansion program’s commencement date pushed beyond 2014 is considered to be a delay tactic by the IOCs. The firms are avoiding a scenario where their investment into the project could end up being shrouded by an uncertain business environment.

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OK-LNG Project

Like the Brass and NLNG projects, the OK-LNG is equally facing uncertainties following the introduction of the oil sector reforms. Studies into the project began way back in 2005, although no substantial progress has been made into its installation and eventual operationalization. According to the initial memorandum of understanding signed in 2006 signed by the partners, the project had been slated for 2009. However, this was never to be after the introduction of the Petroleum Industrialisation Draft Bill in 2008.

Presently, all the IOCs that are the major investors in the project have agreed to push its inception date to 2014. The international oil firms, including Chevron, Shell, and BG Group, have settled on the 2014 date as a cautionary measure as they await PIB’s passage into law. The IOCs have already expressed displeasure with the reforms as constituted in the project’s original form and will most likely make their final verdict once the PIB is passed into law. This could see all these important gas projects in Nigeria either stall or only perform to limited capacities in case the PIB will not be revised to cater to the interest of the IOCs. The oil multinationals are significant players in Nigeria mainly owing to their investment and skills capacities, and any decision to abandon the gas projects will deal Nigeria’s gas sector a big blow.

Mitigation

Bilateral Talks

Most of the delays affecting LNG projects in Nigeria are emanating from the PIB and the uncertainty created as a result of its implementation. The federal government should consider incorporating the views of the IOCs into the PIB to make it more tenable. While the Nigerian government retains its position as the custodian of the natural resources in the country, it should appreciate the fact that the IOCs equally play an important role in the exploitation and development of gas and oil resources. Their concerns and fears should be taken good care of in order to enhance their participation. Having joint discussions will help in ironing out some of the contentious issues such that the eventual PIB to be adopted will ensure a win-win situation for all the stakeholders.

Comparison with other foreign legal frameworks

The PIB can be enhanced further by comparing it with other legal frameworks adopted in different oil and gas producing countries. This will give a good insight into the real issues that were previously encountered by such countries and how controversies were dealt with. The world has been reduced to a global village, where events and occurrences in one country affect other societies and currents. Nigeria will manage to handle the current crisis by copying the practices adopted in other countries, particularly those that have registered great success in their oil and gas petroleum such as Australia and Qatar. Most of the IOCs operating in Nigeria are the same ones that operate in other oil basins across the world, thus they have the necessary market experience and exposure to a wide array of such legal frameworks. What is important for the Nigerian government to do is to study these numerous laws and customize them as far as possible in order to suit the Nigerian market situation. This will largely reduce the harsh implications of the PIB because other legal frameworks have been refined to the satisfaction of all the stakeholders involved.

Reduction in Project Shareholding per Investor

The federal government can consider reducing the shareholding capacity of each of the IOCs in major LNG projects and, instead, consider increasing the State shares. Foreign investors in the form of IOCs enjoy massive shareholding in some of the gas projects in Nigeria, which also gives them a greater say in the projects. Increasing the State’s investment in such critical projects will equally increase the government’s say concerning how the projects are run. Such a move will reduce incidences of the IOCs ganging up against the government and literally holding the State at ransom as they seek to have their way in contentious issues.

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In particular, the State should seek to enhance the capacity of its two agencies, the NNPC and NPDC. This will increase competition between the State-run oil companies and the IOCs, thereby eliminating the feeling of ‘specialness’ that the foreign oil companies have been portraying for a long. However, this can only be achieved if the government instills discipline in the way its funds are utilized in order to stamp out rampant corruption in the country. Empowering the local oil companies involves the government undertaking plans to train indigenous Nigerians to increase their expertise.

Comparison with Qatar

Ownership and Regulation

Like in Nigeria, the LNG resources in Qatar are deemed to be the State’s property. The State owns and regulates the LNG resources through the Ministry of Industry and Energy, but is subject to the Emir of Qatar’s ultimate control. In Nigeria, the oil and gas resources are owned by the state but the petroleum resources minister has the full power of the President to act on the behalf of the State.

LNG exploration and production in Qatar is mainly carried out by Qatar Petroleum, which is a State-owned company. Two other companies also operate in the country, including RasGas and Qatargas. However, the participation of RasGas and Qatargas has only been restricted to specific LNG trains. The companies have no right to refuse or pre-empt participation in consequent LNG train companies. The extensive Qatar LNG vessels are owned by Nakilat and not any of the LNG companies. Although foreign companies can invest in LNG projects, the State will demand 70 percent ownership of such projects through its Qatar Petroleum subsidiary.

The ownership case is different in Nigeria as the State-owned NPDC and NNPC only hold relatively smaller shares in the gas projects. The IOCs have a greater say in all the significant LNG installations in the country since they are the main investors. The State-owned oil companies are cash-strapped and cannot be compared to Qatar Petroleum which has the capacity to execute exploration and production activities. The seven major IOCs operating in Nigeria are very powerful by their investment magnitude and their combined decisions can hold the entire nation at ransom.

State Investment

The Qatar government has established a State-owned oil company that conducts exploration and production exercises. Qatargas Operating Company Limited is the biggest among all the oil players in the sector, with the other player being RasGas Company Limited. Qatar Petroleum (QP) is the investment arm of the State, both in the oil as well as gas sectors. The State investment in Qatar takes a similar structure as the one existent in Nigeria, where the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) and the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) act on behalf of the government in carrying out exploitation and production activities.

In the case of Qatar, the QP oversees the upstream, midstream, as well as downstream oil operations. This also extends to cover the country’s liquefied natural gas resources. “Exploration, development, and production rights are granted through development and production sharing agreements (DPSA) or exploration and production sharing agreements (EPSA)”.

Interest in Gas Projects

The Qatar government has the largest shareholding in all the gas projects that have been established in the country. Up to 70% of gas resources in Qatar are owned by the government. The Barzan projects, however, involve over 90 percent shareholding held by QP.

Although the Nigerian government, through the state-owned NNPC and NPDC, also has shares in all the gas projects in the country, none of the projects has a government interest that exceeds 70 percent shareholding. In the case of Brass LNG, for instance, the NNPC only has 30 percent shareholding, with an additional 10 percent shares held by the local Bayelsa State Government. Other stakeholders, including the IOCs, involved, hold the remainder of the project’s interests. In the case of OK LNG, the federal government through NNPC only owns 40 percent of the project, with the other 60 percent being owned by other companies. The NLNG Train 7 project, on its part, is owned by the federal government up to 49 percent through the NNPC. In all these instances, there is no single project whose ownership by the federal government exceeds 60 percent.

It implies that the Qatari government has more stakes in all the gas projects in the country compared to the case in Nigeria. This gives the Qatari government more say in the running of the projects as the government is the single largest investor in all of the projects.

Value Derivation

The Qatar State derives value from her natural gas deposits through the following three methods below. Firstly, it may hold shares that allow it to off-take production through the State-owned Qatar Petroleum Company. Secondly, the State participates through equity at either the middle or downstream phase through Qatar Petroleum Company which is government-owned. The third and final method of value derivation is through taxation of all the gas-related activities.

The Nigerian State equally derives value from her LNG resources in a similar fashion to Qatar. Both the NNPC and NPDC have shares in various gas projects where they use their shareholding positions to off-take production. NNPC and NPDC are State-owned companies and they act on behalf of the State of Nigeria in all the LNG activities they involve themselves in. The companies also oversee middle and downstream activities, where their participation is through equity ownership. The State of Nigeria has also imposed various tax regimes that seek to acquire revenue out of the LNG activities that take place in the country. The IOCs operating in the country pay these taxes as part of their licenses to continue with their exploration and production activities.

LNG Transmission and Distribution Networks

The Qatari State oversees, through Qatar Petroleum, the ownership, organization, as well as regulation of the entire infrastructure that is involved in the transmission and distribution of LNG. Thus, all pipelines and other relevant infrastructures within Qatar are owned and operated by the government through Qatar Petroleum, which is a State Corporation, or other joint ventures. The existence of this law equally implies that private-owned distribution and transmission networks are non-existence in the country.

In comparison, the Nigerian case is a different one altogether as the transmission and distribution networks are not necessarily owned by the State. At present, the State is overseeing a project that will establish a Trans-Saharan LNG pipeline that will run from Nigeria to Europe through Algeria. Although this project is being carried out by the State, external investors have been invited to help in its funding. Thus, it implies that the government will not have exclusive ownership of the network once it is completed because it is only among several investors.

Needed Changes in Legislation

Liquidity of Investment

Nigeria must strive to keep its gas basins in continuous growth by enhancing liquidity investment as far as asset development cycles are concerned. This will create a scenario where the IOCs already operating in the country will have the opportunity to easily dispose of their assets without being curtailed by the numerous bureaucracies. This will also give other foreign oil companies that are yet to venture into the Nigerian market a chance to establish their operations in the country without any difficulties.

The current oil sector reforms, thus, should consider eliminating the currently existing bureaucracies, where the trading of assets can be done freely and in a timely manner in order to eliminate the huge costs involved. This will particularly attract new investors in the gas production sector given that Nigeria’s attractiveness to oil investors has been waning in recent times. The ease of asset disposal will also encourage the currently existing IOCs, especially those not willing to operate in the country anymore, to pave way for new investors who will inject funds and accomplish the stalled gas projects.

The gas and oil asset trading, if made possible, will also become an opportunity for the federal government to capture economic rent out of the buoyant asset trading environment. Considerations should be made to incorporate a Capital Gains Tax into the PIB to make it possible for the government to earn additional finances. Such funds can in turn be used to empower NNPC, which is also a major stakeholder in all the gas projects in the country.

Fiscal terms

Currently, Nigeria relies heavily on the seven major IOCs that have a greater share of investment in the country’s gas and oil sectors. This is putting the country in a precarious condition as far as its lucrative resources are concerned because the combined force of the IOCs cannot be ignored. The situation can, however, be changed to Nigeria’s benefit by ensuring that the PIB fiscal terms are revised. The revision should be centered on making them more attractive, as well as realistic bearing in mind that more gas oil deposits have been discovered in other parts of the world.

With revised and attractive PIB fiscal terms, more players will seek to explore and establish themselves in the Nigerian oil and gas sector. Their entry will increase competition with the currently existing IOCs and will equally reduce the huge shares of investment that the seven major IOCs in Nigeria are currently boasting of. The idea is to attract more investors through friendly PIB fiscal terms and have all the stalled gas projects fast-tracked. Nigeria’s government is of the opinion that high taxes on gases will help the government collect sufficient revenue from gas. However, this is not factual since most gas projects tend to operate below FID taxable revenue. Most companies will also tend to avoid taxes. It gives room for many compliance issues and promotes taxation-driven field production rather than based on reservoir fundamentals.

Reduction of Gas Reservoir Sizes on Offer

PIB ought to make sure that companies are given limits of the extent to which they can exploit gas resources in its gas-rich regions like the Niger Delta. Such a move will be critical in attracting new entrants into the sector to further increase exploration activities and overall investments. A good example is a move by Norway to give up to 78 licenses to different companies to operate in an expansive land measuring up to 36,579km2. This meant that each company only operated on an average 470-km2 area of land.

The IOCs in Nigeria currently have very huge reservoir areas that have been apportioned to them, which in some instances even exceed their ability to fully exploit and develop the areas. The companies have also taken up all the gas and oil base areas, meaning that new investors willing to venture into the market have nothing to exploit and develop. Thus, the PIB will help in freeing large tracts of gas and oil land areas by reducing the current base areas under each of the players, giving the new entrants an opportunity to work on them as well.

Manpower Development

Despite the IOCs in Nigeria having operated in the country for many years, their performance as far as empowering local skills is concerned has been very poor. This denies the state-owned NNPC/NPDC the capacity to acquire competent expertise and enhance its capacity to explore and develop the natural resources within the country. In this regard, PIB should seek to introduce a give and take provision where the IOCs are allowed to employ expatriates in the country and employ Nigerian nationals as expatriates in other foreign countries.

The PIB provision should also seek to introduce a reciprocal arrangement that insists on relating the numbers of expatriates hired against that of Nigerian staff dispatched for training in overseas countries. This kind of program can help in organizing training for Nigerian staff even as the oil company brings in expatriates. Alternatively, the arrangement can have two Nigerian staff sent abroad for a period of two–and–a–half years of training.

A large pool of Nigerian staff trained through this kind of plan will ensure that there is reliable training and expertise in the country. It also gives room for the state-owned gas and oil companies to poach the employees and enhance their ability to produce maximum gas and oil for the export market. The main idea behind such a framework is to ensure that local companies are empowered to an extent that failure or refusal by IOCs to undertake certain projects, like is the case currently, does not put the country into jeopardy.

Power

The oil and gas sector reforms must find a way of addressing the power woes that currently bedevil Nigeria. The poor power situation in the country is among the major factors that are keeping investors away from the country. Given that PIB, in its current form, already increases the cost of operation, the perennial power problems only increase an already poor situation. The federal government-led oil and gas sector reforms should treat the issue of power with great emphasis than even the concentration being put on taxes and other PIB fiscal regimes.

Midstream

There is a lot of potential in Nigeria’s LNG to the extent that the country can garner enough market size globally. However, this can only be realized if the country tackles FID problems in three main LNG projects, including “OK LNG, Brass LNG and NLNG Train 7”. Drafting a legal framework that is able to foster the growth of gas projects domestically is a major step toward realizing this potential. The statute should bear in mind that Nigeria is faced with immense competition from other global LNG producers. These countries could attract all the IOCs to work on their respective gas bases and bypass Nigeria’s capacity and importance as far as the global production of LNG is concerned.

Nigeria is determined to discourage international oil firms from getting high promising deals that have the capability of undermining the LNG projects. In this regard, Nigeria has set up a legal framework at the midstream level as a barrier. Failure to institute such conditions at the moment could see Nigeria’s position fall in the pecking order in the next 10 years compared to the efforts that some of the new LNG potential countries are putting into place.

Conclusion

Nigeria has introduced a new framework of legal structure with an intention of enhancing the governance of her gas and oil sectors. The new legal structure is contained in a Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) that was first formulated in 2008. However, the formulation and intended implementation of the PIB has slowed down the commissioning of various gas projects that had been intended for operationalization in the near future in order to enhance Nigeria’s exploration and production of liquefied natural gas (LNG). The delay has particularly affected the completion of the Trans-Saharan pipeline, the Brass LNG project, as well as affecting the OK-LNG project, and the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (LNLG) expansion project. The NLNG project had been intended for an introduction of the seventh train to the project and increased production capacity. In all these instances, the main investors who are the international oil companies (IOCs) operating in Nigeria have withdrawn their participation in the projects as they await the final passage of the PIB. As a way of speeding up operations and eliminating the stalemate, the federal government of Nigeria should seek to engage in bilateral discussions with the IOCs and seek to refine the PIB by making comparisons with other existing legal structures in other gas-rich nations in the world.

In comparing the Nigerian situation to that of Qatar, which is also a rich oil and gas producing country, both countries have established a State-owned company that furthers the interest of the State. Nigeria has two different state agencies, including the Nigerian Petroleum Development Company (NPDC) and the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC). Qatar has established Qatar Petroleum, which oversees upstream, midstream, as well as downstream gas and oil operations in a similar manner to what the PIB seeks to introduce in the Nigerian context. In contrast to Nigeria, Qatar’s regulatory framework restricts ownership of the LNG resource in the country to foreign companies.

The Nigerian situation can be improved by introducing new regulatory frameworks that address such important areas as liquidity of investment, and refinement of the fiscal terms. The allocation of gas reservoirs areas to the foreign companies involved in exploitation should be reduced in size to allow for many players to come into play. The local manpower’s expertise capacity should be improved in order to reduce the over-reliance on external individuals and companies. It is equally important that solutions to the perennial power problems in the country are found so as to give investors fewer concerns and worries over the high costs of business in the country. Changing the current rigid laws on the liquidity of investment will allow the major IOCs an opportunity to easily dispose of their assets and thus make it easy for companies to participate in the business, especially for those willing to venture into the trade.

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