Abuja’s State High Court halts Seplat Energy’s acquisition of Mobil Producing Nigeria

Last week, the State High Court of the Federal Capital Territory of Abuja made an ex-parte order of interim injunction restraining Mobil Producing Nigeria and its shareholders from completing the Share Sale and Purchase Agreement previously signed with Seplat Energy.

In February 2022, and after months of negotiations, Seplat Energy had announced a $1.283bn cash proposition to acquire the shares of Mobil Producing Nigeria from ExxonMobil Corporation. This remains the biggest oil & gas transaction of the year so far, and one set to significantly expand Seplat Energy’s business in Nigeria.

Mobil Producing Nigeria holds the entire operate shallow water business of ExxonMobil in Nigeria, representing some 95,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boepd) of working interest production. It also includes the Qua Ibo export terminal that exports oil to global markets, and the Bonny River Terminal that processes natural gas liquids into cooking gas notably.

The NNPC had very early on expressed its disagreement over the deal. The state-owned giant, set to be officially unveiled as new commercial entity later this month, has sought to expand its upstream portfolio in recent years. Last year, it notably pre-empted a deal by Nigerian independent ConOil from acquiring Chevron Nigeria’s interest in OMLs 86 & 88.

However, because Seplat Energy’s acquisition of Mobil Producing Nigeria is a corporate transaction and not an asset-based one, the pre-emption matter has remained subject of debate. In May, Seplat Energy had notably confirmed that it had received a letter from the NUPRC declining its consent on the transaction.   

The ex-parte order of interim injunction made by the State High Court last week is a response to NNPC seeking to declare a dispute between itself and Mobil Producing Nigeria in relation to their interpretation of pre-emption rights under their Joint-Operating Agreement (JOA).

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Eberechukwu Oji: Nigeria needs to make gas available to all its states capital cities

By the end of its Decade of Gas in 2030, Nigeria needs to have brought gas to all its state capital cities if it wants to truly spur industrialization, ND Western CEO Eberechukwu Oji said in Abuja last week. Oji was speaking at the 21st NOG Conference & Exhibition that took place from July 4-7, 2022. “A country is considered industrialized if its industrial output stands at around 20% of its gross domestic product (GDP),” he said. “Nigeria is far below that but has an opportunity to boost manufacturing and industrial production by monetizing its natural gas reserves. To reach that goal, we need to implement policies that enable capital to flow into gas infrastructure and make gas available to all of Nigeria’s state capital cities,” he added. ND Western owns 45% of OML 34 in the onshore Niger Delta where it produces oil and natural gas. It notably operates three gas processing plants there with a combined capacity of 600 MMscf/d and supplies gas to power plants and industries. However, illiquidity in the power sector value-chain has made investments into gas production uneconomically, and demand for gas-based industrialization is seen as much more attractive for operators in Nigeria. In May this year, ND Western partnered with another Nigerian independent, First Hydrocarbons Nigeria (FHN), and with gas distributor Falcon Corporation to provide gas to the Lagos Free Zone. The Gas Infrastructure Development Agreement (GIDA) was signed with their special purpose vehicle, Optimera Energy FZE, and will start delivering an initial 5 MMscf/d of gas from 2024. “We need to unlock investments into distributing gas to all of Nigeria’s industrial hubs,” Oji explained. “Even some demand centers in the East remain in need of gas for their industries. We need to look at the originally conceived eastern gas network and make gas available in Benue, Ebonyi, and Anambra states.” Oji was speaking on the day when the Parliament of the European Union backed new rules labelling investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate-friendly. “Nigeria needs to get down to business with these new rules and think of commercializing its gas on a much larger scale for the export and domestic market,” he commented.

How decentralisation can support the expansion of Africa’s refining sector

by Souheil Abboud, Managing Director, VFuels LLC. Africa’s refining capacity has traditionally been concentrated around key hubs in Algeria, Egypt, South Africa and Nigeria. Combined, these four countries represent almost 75% of Africa’s installed refining capacity thanks to large-scale refineries that operate with various levels of reliability. However, Nigeria and South Africa have lost their status of refining hubs in recent years. Nigeria because of under-investment and lack of maintenance in its three state-owned refineries, and South Africa because of the gradual shut-down or conversion of its own facilities. As most African nations seek to secure their fuel supplies by building their own refineries, modular technologies and designs have been on the rise. While the trend first emerged out of Nigeria, it has quickly spread across the continent and modular refineries are now being built from West to Southern Africa. Modular technology solutions make it possible to address several critical challenges and needs of emerging markets, especially in Africa. They notably offer clients the opportunity to set up a refinery in approximately 13+ months from inception to start of production. This compares favorably with the 3+ years for a traditional “stickbuilt” refinery. Such decentralized assets also avoid a lot of the regular land, infrastructure, and logistics challenges associated with larger projects. Modular refineries have a quick return on investment (RoI) of approximately 2 years, enabling developers and their investors the ability to recoup their invested capital sooner. They offer a lot of flexibility when it comes to capex and opex, and the ability to gradually invest in additional modules to support capacity expansion over time. Finally, the modular refining technology makes project’s development simple and efficient. It notably requires less manpower and direct supervision, which in turn provides significant costs savings and reduced operating expenses. At VFuels, we have developed a solid track record of executing modular refinery projects for African clients. These include the 5,000 bpd Waltersmith refinery in Nigeria, the 10,000 bpd Conex refinery in Liberia, and the 30,000 bpd Cabinda refinery in Angola where factory acceptance tests (FAT) were completed in May 2022. As we continue to support Africa’s energy security agenda with modular refinery solutions, we also believe in the sustainability of African infrastructure assets. Earlier this year, we entered into a joint venture agreement with Earth Technologies to develop and install clean energy infrastructure for African oil & gas assets, including refineries. We also set up a collaboration with EMCO Engineering to develop water treatment facilities and deploy controls and digital solutions across various sectors in Africa.