Nigerian companies team up to provide gas to West Africa’s leading industrial hub

The Lagos Free Zone (LFZ) has officially signed earlier today a Gas Infrastructure Development Agreement with Optimera Energy FZE to develop its own gas distribution network. The new project gathers some of Nigeria’s leading gas players around a new venture committed to promoting gas-based industrialisation.

West Africa’s leading industrial hub needs gas

Located on the Lekki Corridor, the Lagos Free Zone covers some 830ha and is quickly emerging as West Africa’s leading integrated multi-cluster industrial zone. The project is promoted by the Tolaram Group of Singapore and is co-located with the Lekki Port, Nigeria’s deepest multi-purpose seaport, expected to be completed this year.

LFZ has already been successful in attracting several industrial companies and manufacturers including TG Arla, Kellogg’s, Colgate, BASF, Saba Building Systems, or Raffles Oil amongst others. As the zone grows, it seeks to cater for potential high-growth sectors such as FMCG, pharmaceuticals, chemicals, engineering, non-metallic minerals, logistics and mixed-use. This is in return increasing the need to provide world-class infrastructure, including a reliable energy supply.

Godwin Emefiele, Governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria, during a visit at the Lagos Free Zone in March 2022. Picture: LFZE.

Optimera Energy is now in charge of building, owning, and operating the natural gas distribution network within the free zone. The project is expected to require some $20-25m, with uninterrupted deliveries of piped gas expected to start in 2024. Initial capacity will be set at 5 MMscf/d before being gradually increased to 40 MMscf/d as demand in the zone picks up.

The special purpose vehicle (SPV) gathers three of Nigeria’s strongest gas players including natural gas distributor Falcon Corporation Ltd and independent oil & gas companies ND Western and First Hydrocarbon Nigeria (FHN) via their respective subsidiaries ND Western Midstream Ltd and FHN Gas Ltd.

“The Optimera consortium is made up of like-minded shareholders who are passionate about a common goal: accelerating the further growth of domestic gas utilisation in Nigeria. Having reliable dedicated gas supply infrastructure installed in the LFZ adds tremendous value to existing industrial concerns and will increase the Zone’s attractiveness to future customers.”

Audrey Joe-Ezigbo, Managing Director of Optimera Energy and Deputy Managing Director of Falcon Corporation.

Promoters of gas-based industrialisation

Falcon Corporation has been successfully operating the Ikorodu natural gas franchise in Lagos since November 2006 and will bring its experience in building and operating gas pipeline networks for industries. The company is also a bulk distributor of Liquefied Petroleum Gas (LPG) in the domestic market and is actively developing LPG bulk storage infrastructure in the Niger Delta.

On the other side, both ND Western and FHN are amongst Nigeria’s biggest gas producers from OML 34 and OML 26 in the Niger Delta, with combined gas reserves of over 4 Tcf. Via Optimera Energy, they will be transporting their gas to the Lagos Free Zone via the Escravos-Lagos Pipeline System (ELPS).

ND Western has notably increasingly positioned itself as an enabler of industrialisation in Nigeria. The company already supplies gas to several power plants in the country via ELPS and exports gas to West African markets via the West Africa Gas Pipeline (WAGP). On OML 34, it has recently embarked on the development of an industrial park providing industries with direct access to cheaper gas directly at the pump.

The rise of gas-to-industry in Nigeria

Because the power sector remains illiquid, the promotion of gas utilization across other industries is seen as a priority under Nigeria’s Decade of Gas initiative. Chief amongst them is the expansion of the downstream gas sector, especially Autogas for cars and piped natural gas (PNG) for industries.

Consequently, industrial gas off-takers are on the rise, and the volumes of domestic gas monetised by Nigerian industries (gas-to-industry) have doubled between 2015 and 2021.

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New study shows 8.2 Tcf potential at Innoson’s oil & gas concession offshore Sierra Leone

Innoson Oil & Gas, part of Nigeria’s IVM Innoson Group, revealed last week the findings of a third-party evaluation conducted by Ryder Scott Co. on its concession offshore Sierra Leone. According to the American engineering and geological consultants, Innoson Oil & Gas’ blocks could contain up to 8.2 Tcf of gas and 234m barrels of condensate of P50 estimated un-risked gross prospective recoverable resources in the Sierra Leonean basin. The Nigerian company had been awarded provisional Blocks 96, 97, 114, 115, 116, 117, 133, 134 and 135 in May 2020. The blocks are in shallow water off the coast of Sierra Leone. They are notably adjacent to the Reconnaissance Permit area that the Petroleum Directorate of Sierra Leone (PDSL) granted Wildcat Petroleum earlier this month. Interest for exploration in Sierra Leone is picking up with several companies currently conducting reconnaissance operations there. The country has already shown oil deposits during previous exploration campaigns led by Anadarko, Repsol and Tullow Oil. These notably resulted in a few discoveries, though uncommercial ones. They include Venus B-1, Mercury-1, and Jupiter-1 by Anadarko in 2009, 2010, and 2012, and Savannah-1X by Lukoil in 2013. In order to assess the potential of its concession, the company notably deployed an earth remote sensing (ERS) method, reducing the need for 2D and 3D seismic and well data. “Asset evaluation, a field development plan and the setup of a data room are vigorously pursued with the immediate objective to engage a farm-in partner,” Innoson Oil & Gas explained in a statement.

How Africa Oil Corp. made half a billion dollars from Nigeria in less than two years

Investing in Nigeria may not be for the faint-hearted, but the country continues to prove times and again that it can be a highly rewarding market. By securing an indirect interest in some of the country’s largest producing deep-water blocks in 2020, Africa Oil Corp. has shown the benefits that come with betting on Nigeria’s brownfield opportunities. In early 2020, the Canadian junior secured a 50% equity interest in Prime Oil & Gas B.V. (POGBV) for $519.5m. POGBV has an indirect 8% interest in the Chevron-operated OML 127 that contains the producing Agbami field and a 16% indirect interest in the Total-operated OML 130 that contains the producing Akpo and Egina fields. Because these represent some of Nigeria’s biggest producing assets, Africa Oil Corp.’s has relied on an average daily working interest production of 25,000 to 28,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day since 2020. Despite hedging constraining POGBV’s realized oil price to less than $60 in 2021, the company’s dividends to Africa Oil Corp. have been generous. Since January 2020, Prime has distributed eleven dividend payments totaling $500m to AOC, representing over 95% of its original equity investment.   "Performance of the Company’s investment in Prime has continued to exceed expectations with strong cash flows, dividend distributions and very modest investments on the upstream assets, offshore Nigeria." Africa Oil Corp, 13 May 2022 A Brownfield Investment Destination Nigeria offers some of the best proven reserves of oil & gas in the world, existing infrastructure and a large, established energy industry. But because of its above-ground risks, the country has repeatedly deterred foreign investors. However, deals like the one made by AOC in 2020 are proof that opportunities in the market are real. “Above-ground risks are constantly used as a pretext by foreign investors not to put their money in Nigeria. Those perceptions are often short-sighted and reveal a misunderstanding of the country’s environment. Because Nigeria is a brownfield investment destination, a successful investment strategy is one that relies on partnering with local actors who will be taking on the above-ground risks for you,” said Mickael Vogel, Hawilti’s Director & Head of Research. Last year, the country adopted the Petroleum Industry Act in a bid to bring much-needed regulatory certainty to investors. But the transition to the new regime has come with its challenges and is yet to translate into a significant increase in investments. “Recent and successful deals in Nigeria have been made by foreign companies that focus on injecting capital and bringing in technical expertise instead of seeking straightforward operatorship of the assets. In doing so, they let their Nigerian counterpart and operator navigate the country’s business environment while they focus on developing the reserves and cashing in on their investment,” added Vogel.