Axxela’s new gas plant to expand Nigeria’s gas infrastructure following bond success

Axxela Limited, a leading African gas and power company owned by Helios Investment Partners and Sojitz of Japan, has announced a Final Investment Decision to develop a 50 million standard cubic feet per day (MMscf/d) gas processing plant in Delta State, as it pushes towards sustainable energy solutions in Nigeria. This decision is bolstered by Axxela’s successful ₦16.4 billion bond issuance earlier this month, which was oversubscribed by 109 percent.

The announcement comes as Axxela continues to expand its footprint in the energy sector, following last year’s agreement with BUA Group, one of Africa’s largest conglomerates, and CIMC ENRIC, a global leader in the energy equipment industry, to build a 700-ton-per-day mini liquefied natural gas (LNG) project.

The new gas processing plant, expected to begin operations by the end of 2024, will start with a 12 MMscf/d modular unit and is designed for rapid expansion, with the potential to increase the plant’s output to 50 MMscf/d within 18 months. It is a key part of Axxela’s strategy to support the Nigerian government’s Decade of Gas initiative and to enhance domestic gas utilization.

Strategically located in OML 152, the gas processing plant is expected to serve as a central processing hub for surrounding oil & gas operators, with the potential to transform gas flaring into a valuable economic resource, and significantly reduce CO2 emissions.

“We are positioning to develop requisite infrastructure for natural gas processing and last mile distribution that creates market access for at least 20% of Nigeria’s gas demand,” Axxela’s Director of Business Development, Franklin Umole, said in a company statement.

“Over the past two decades, we have been at the forefront of natural gas advocacy, and this project is a further reaffirmation of our dedication to gas infrastructure development and our vision to deliver innovative energy solutions across Nigeria and Africa.’’

In preparation for the project, Axxela has secured a long-term feedstock supply agreement with a leading local upstream company and established equipment supply arrangements with top-tier Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs).

Upon completion, the processed gas will support various market segments, including Compressed Natural Gas (CNG) for vehicles, industrial feedstock, and decentralized power solutions, marking a significant step towards energy security and economic growth in Nigeria.

Boost from successful bond issuance

In a related financial achievement, Axxela recently raised ₦16.4 billion in an oversubscribed bond issuance, despite challenging economic conditions marked by rising interest rates and limited market liquidity. The funds will be instrumental in realizing the gas plant project.

“This is a significant indicator of increasing investor confidence in our company’s reputation, brand, and performance,” CEO at Axxela Bolaji Osunsanya said.

“The bond proceeds will support the development of our growth projects, signifying the importance of local and international capital markets in the development of critical infrastructure.”

With the FID and successful bond issuance, Axxela looks to advance Nigeria’s gas infrastructure, support the energy transition, and meet the increasing demand for cleaner energy solutions.

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OPINION: Charting the Course – Who Dares, Wins!

The African continent stands at a pivotal juncture in the global energy sector with its abundant oil and gas reserves offering immense potential for economic growth, writes Constantine ‘Labi Ogunbiyi. However, while the continent holds significant promise, navigating the upstream oil and gas sector in Africa comes with a plethora of risks and potential setbacks that demand careful consideration and strategic planning. This is against a backdrop of cutbacks in international capital for carbon-intensive oil and gas developments and increasing competition for the same sources of capital. Innovative financing solutions are thus required to fill the void, but can only be truly successful if tailored to specific needs and adopted and respected by all stakeholders. Nigeria, Africa’s largest oil producer, epitomizes the complexities and opportunities within the continent’s energy sector. Over the past decade, the Nigerian oil and gas industry has grappled with insecurity, asset vandalism, and community unrest, leading to a decline in investment. This coupled with the need for the sanctity of contracts and a properly structured fiscal framework has seen investment in the sector decline to about US$5 billion per annum from highs of about US$22 billion per annum in 2012. Nigeria has an abundance of unexploited discovered natural gas (as well as significant prospective gas resources), now heralded as a “clean” transition fuel amidst global energy shifts. Nigeria should seek to attract significant investment during this transition era (which has also seen crude oil prices rebound) to take full advantage of this, thus retaining the value of crude oil and gas resources to enable it to position itself for its energy transition (towards net zero) agenda. A just energy transition, the paradigm that gained impetus at the December 2023 COP28 Conference, is intended to decelerate financing fossil fuel developments while supporting those most vulnerable to the impacts of climate change when facilitating the transition to clean energy. This is not simply a tweak to existing systems; it is a fundamental transformation towards a cleaner, more sustainable future. This shift is driven by environmental concerns, the changing balance of power on the global stage, and awareness that the energy-producing nations in the Global South (which produce only a fraction of global emissions) should be given a chance to “catch up” industrially, technological advancement as consumer demands. It is estimated that the country needs about US$25 billion of annual investment in the next 10 years to achieve crude oil output of three to four million barrels per day and 3 bcf per day of gas production for domestic consumption (an ambition). A lack of available infrastructure, whether because of existing compromised infrastructure through age or sabotage or simply a lack of new investment, and competition for capital regionally, poses challenges that will need to be overcome to achieve this. Inadequate infrastructure impedes the development and operation of oil and gas projects in Africa, increases project costs, delays timelines, and heightens operational risks. The new Government has declared that it is “open for business” and will take urgent steps towards solving the fiscal, regulatory, security, and other issues discouraging investment and operations in the nation’s petroleum sector – something that is urgently required to help to push its oil and gas production to the ambitious levels being targeted. The mechanisms are in place – the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) has done a lot to bring an enabling framework to the industry, including by allowing the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) and its subsidiaries to raise capital on their own balance sheets, whether by divestitures or development partnerships on their blocks (including risk service contracts, financial and technical service agreements and the likes), crude forward sales, debt or equity capital raisings, etc. Still, there is a need to focus more on implementing the PIA in a manner that restores investors’ confidence and boosts oil and gas production, ultimately increasing jobs, the country’s earnings, and prosperity. Whilst international commodity traders have increased their activity and funding of oil production in Nigeria, they rarely support the development of appraisal and near-production assets. Access to innovative capital structures for such capital-intensive projects, involving a more risk-reward approach will be key to developing such assets, as will the deepening of regional capital markets to bolster the capital available from institutions such as the African Export-Import Bank and planned new initiatives such as the African Energy Bank. Effectively, more “home-grown” solutions will be required. As international oil companies shift focus to deep offshore and gas-rich assets, indigenous companies and smaller operators are stepping in to fill the void. However, accessing capital remains challenging. Innovative financing models, such as the contractor risk service  model, offer a promising solution. This model, which involves contractors taking financial risks and receiving payment from production, incentivizes efficient asset development while mitigating risk for owners and operators. The contractor taking such risk, is effectively a co-financier of, and investor in, the development of the oil block – ensuring a service that would otherwise require immediate payment, to benefit from payment from oil and gas production (therein lies the contractor risk). The success of such models hinges on the support of all stakeholders, including operators, joint venture partners, financiers, regulatory authorities, and local communities. By aligning incentives and sharing risks, these partnerships can drive sustainable development and enhance investor returns. The recent completion of the FSO ELI Akaso infrastructure project by the Century Group (CG) (part of an alternative crude oil evacuation system (ACOES)), facilitated by the contractor risk service model, exemplifies the potential for collaboration to unlock value and foster growth. The ACOES is being developed as a result of the need to enhance production and supply security from oil blocks in the Eastern Niger Delta due to infractions and prolonged outages of the Nembe Creek Trunkline (historically one of Nigeria’s major oil transportation arteries evacuating up to 150,000 bopd of crude from the Niger Delta to the Atlantic coast for export). The CG model is “Made-in-Nigeria-for-Nigeria” but can be rolled out regionally (and globally too), in countries where access

Mauritania signs domestic gas deal for Banda and Tevet fields

Mauritania has signed an exploration and gas production contract with energy firms Go gas and Taqa Arabia to tap into the discovered Banda and Tevet fields, which boast an estimated 2.2 trillion cubic feet (Tcf) of natural gas reserves. The deal represents an investment of some $1bn and is a key part of the West African nation’s plan to improve its energy infrastructure and boost electricity production. The contract, a cornerstone of Mauritania’s energy strategy, aims at supplying domestic gas to fuel the 180-megawatt Nouakchott dual power plant located north of the capital. The development is expected to stabilize the electricity supply, proving crucial for the country’s key industrial and mining sectors. “The signing of this agreement represents an important step in the framework of the new dynamic of valorization of Mauritania’s national gas resources,” Minister of Petroleum, Mines and Energy Nani Ould Chrougha said in an official statement, emphasizing the deal’s alignment with efforts to stimulate investments in the upstream segment of the oil and gas industry. Last week on Wednesday, the Mauritanian government gave approval to the gas exploration and production contract with the Taqa-Go consortium following a competitive bidding process. The consortium’s commitment includes the development of a new 120-megawatt gas-fired power plant and the enhancement of the existing 180-megawatt facility, reflecting Mauritania’s shift towards more efficient energy production. The exploitation of the Banda and Tevet fields is crucial to Mauritania’s goal of achieving universal electricity access by 2030. Banda was discovered in 2002 by Woodside Energy and was quickly earmarked as a domestic gas project, whose economics have been deemed too unattractive by most of its operators ever since. The project also aims to foster a synergistic relationship between the gas and power sectors, offering competitively priced, reliable electricity to support the nation’s industrial backbone. Both state utility SOMELEC and state-mining company SNIM are expected to benefit from more reliable gas-to-power supply. This agreement marks a significant step in Mauritania’s journey towards energy self-sufficiency as it pushes to leverage its natural resources for economic growth and energy autonomy.