- The SPE Nigeria conference theme for 2013 seeks to put a searchlight on the continent, discussing “required policy, funding, technology techniques and capabilities” , to “grow Africa’s Oil and Gas Production”. That’s markedly different from previous themes that are grounded in Nigeria. Why is it important to have a Pancontinental agenda for a conference that’s essentially local?
As you know SPE is a global organization with mission to disseminate technical know-how and related technologies in the fields of oil and gas exploration and production. SPE Nigeria being part of this international body, is part of this global mission and whilst it is primarily focused on Nigeria, with its central position as the largest and most established SPE organization in Africa, has a pivotal regional leadership role, both at the Sub-Saharan and Africa levels.
The 2013 conference will be the 37th edition of SPE Nigeria’s Annual International Conference & Exhibition (NAICE) and this conference has grownsince its inception from a Nigeria-only into a Regional event. For example, as far back as 2002, the conference had already began to play in this regional/ pan-African level when it examined the theme “The Technological Challenges in Maximising Exploration and Production in West and Southern Africa Sub- Regions”. Also, many past conferences have delegates from other African countries eg Ghana, Uganda, and Congo.
It is against this foundation therefore, that the 2013 conference aims to provide a veritable platform for the examination and discussion of what it will take to achieve Africa’s oil and gas production growth ambitions. The topic, which is taking a holistic view of the key enablers that will ensure success, namely “required policy, funding, technology techniques and capabilities” also has in its frame, the recent new entrants into the club of oil and gas producing nations in Africa. This way, the 2013 NAICE aim to provide a pan-African platform for professionals and organisations to network and exchange experiences and ideas to help in the attainment of the individual state and regional production growth objectives.
- Who are you inviting, apart from the usual ranking officials of the Nigerian government, to make the event live up to this billing of a Pan African platform?
Over the years, we have invited participation from the Government, Companies and Universities in the other oil producing African countries sometimes with encouraging results. For example, at the 2010 conference, the Minister of Petroleum of the Republic of Cong sent two representatives to attend the conference. I have to be honest that one challenge we have faced is that of language, with a number of countries’ official language being French, Portuguese or other languages.
This notwithstanding, participation will still be invited from the other oil and gas producing countries in Africa including namely Ghana, Uganda, Congo, Gabon, Ghana, and Angola.
It is important for me to highlight that the conference has a technical focus, with capacity building and exchange of ideas as a core objective, so participation is only sought at the level of the highly placed government officials. Participation from the executives, professionals and student cadre is also a key drive.
- There is so much anxiety in Nigeria-at least outside the government ranks- about the impact of Shale Gas and other Unconventional fossil fuels in Nigeria. The SPE seems to share these anxieties, which is why it’s the key theme of discussion at the Oloibiri Lecture, your Kickstart event for 2013. What do you think can go wrong?
The emergence of unconventional hydrocarbon resources, especially gas is a significant factor in the global energy demand - supply equation. The potential size of this resource is of the magnitude requires a deeper consideration of the short, medium and long term impact it could have on Nigeri oil and gas industry. This is of particular importance, given our position as the 6th largest crude oil exporter and 14th largest Natural gas exporter in the world, on which about 95% of our foreign exchange earnings and about 80% of our budgetary revenues are derived.
In the early release (reference case) of USA’s Energy Intelligence Agency’s 2013 Annual Energy Outlook, a sharp rise in domestic crude oil production from tight oil play over the next decades is forecasted. Further, dry natural gas production are projected to increase, mostly from unconventional plays (tight sand and shales), such that by 2020, domestic production will outpace consumption by 2020, thereby spurring net export of gas. There are other scenarios of this forecast that predict earlier or later cutover from net importer to net exporter.
On 20th February 2013, Platts website (a leading global energy, petrochemicals and metals information provider) carried a story with headline that “Nigeria's LNG exports to US in steep decline on rise of shale: NNPC”. It quoted an NNPC report that stated that "In 2011, Nigeria exported just 2.3 Tcf, representing 1% of total LNG exports to the US, compared with about 12% in 2007," NNPC said in the report. Nigeria exported 95 Tcf of LNG to the US in 2007, according to the report. Further, it quoted the report saying that “However, the new NNPC data projects Nigeria's LNG exports to shrink further given the steady increase in shale gas' share of total US gas supply from 8% in 2007 to 32% in 2011 and to the US becoming a net exporter of natural gas this year”.
Further, sizeable unconventional resources are reported in Argentina, Australia, Canada, China, Mexico, South Africa.
These reports go to highlight the growing importance of unconventional hydrocarbons and potential impacts on the global oil and gas supply and demand dynamics. It is therefore incumbent on Nigeria to reflect on this situation and fashion out strategies to protect its industry, its market and income.
In choosing this topic for the Oloibiri lecture series, SPE Nigeria is providing a robust platform to bring this issue to fore, for the Government and Industry players to get informed and deliberate on the way forward.
- Doesn’t the phenomenon have any upside, like new skills for Petroleum Engineers?
Indeed, the emergence and potential of unconventional opens up new vistas for the oil and gas industry, and infact for the world, as we are likely to be able to tap into resources which were hitherto evaluated to be unproducible . This hydrocarbon source will potentially play a significant role in bridging the future demand – supply gaps forecasted in some global energy scenarios.
Globally, and especially in the countries where there sizeable unconventional resource discovered and/ or in production, new skill sets and work opportunities have opened up for Petroleum Engineers.
However, noting that the unconventional resource base in Nigeria is not yet been actively developed, these opportunities are not currently available in-country.
- Your 2013 Calendar includes the Oloibiri Lecture, the Catch ‘em young “ essay and quiz competition, Nigerian Students Technical Conference, monthly technical sessions by SPE chapters…Still, the perception remains that the three day conference constitutes over 70% of SPE Nigeria’s activity. How do you change that?
Indeed, with the growth, success and visibility recorded by the conference NAICE since inception, it has eclipsed all the other less-visible activities of SPE Nigeria Council and the five SPE Sections in Nigeria (Abuja, Benin, Lagos, Port Harcourt and Warri).
We do a lot more that the conference, but we have not talked about this sufficiently with our membership, our partnering organisations/ companies , the oil and gas community and the general public.
One way we want to change this is to increase the publicity of our other activities and the contribution and impact these activities is having in our workplaces, our universities, our secondary and primary schools; all making differentiating contribution to the building the capacity of the workforce that is needed to manage one of the most important sectors in the Nigeria economy.
Today, we have four flagship events. The first is the annual Oloibiri lecture and Energy Forum , which is positioned as a policy level event to discuss pertinent and emerging issues that affect Nigeria Oil and Gas Industry. Secondly, we actually have three conferences, the first being the well known NAICE, then we also have the Young Professionals conference and the Students conference. The conferences are positioned as technical events where knowhow and technologies are discussed, shared and exhibited.
There are several other events held targeted at professionals including monthly technical meetings at each section, and experience focused short duration continuing education short courses. Further, we have regular distinguished lecture series, which is a program organized by SPE International, where lecturers are sponsored to deliver knowledge sharing sessions on best practices selected from all over the world. For example, in 2012/2013, we will be having lecturers from United States of America, France, UK, and Asia to deliver lectures across the SPE sections in Nigeria. In turn, we have also had lecturers selected from Nigeria to deliver best practices across the world.
Targeted at Secondary schools, we have the catch them young essay and quiz competition that is usually involves 30 – 50 primary schools in the locations of the five SPE sections. We also have an Ambassador Lecture scheme where professionals go to secondary schools to deliver lectures to increase the awareness and knowledge of the oil and gas industry amongst our teens.
For primary schools, we are driving the energy4me program, which again is an SPE International program to increase energy knowledge in youngsters from age 8. This program is very enriching as it also has a ‘train the teacher’ component.
One of the most value adding activities of the SPE Nigeria is the formation and support of the Committee of Heads of Petroleum Engineering Departments in our tertiary institutions. This platform has allowed these senior professional and leaders who we have charged with producing academically sound graduates for the industry to be able to work together in identifying and addressing some of the common problems which they face. In fact, this year, this body is organising a Petroleum Engineering Education Summit with SPE Nigeria’s full support.
I cannot but also mention that our 25 University chapters are some of the most vibrant in the SPE world, participating and winning recognitions at Section, Nigeria Council and International levels.
Accordingly, SPE provides a lot more service than just the successful NAICE conference that we have become well known for. Our portfolio of activities is very diverse, rich, influencing a wide spectrum of society and impact is far reaching.
- Do you get a sense that SPE Nigeria is punching below its weight?
This is an interesting question. I would say that SPE Nigeria has a leading position amongst its peers of societies focused on the oil and gas industry. This can be buttressed in a number of ways. Let’s look at global SPE demographics and the SPE Nigeria’s standing. Today, SPE operates in 123 countries in the world, with a global membership of about 103,000. It also has a total 187 sections and 238 university chapters. SPE Nigeria has grown over the years and now has a membership of about 5500, five sections and 25 university chapters. So, SPE Nigeria comprise between 5 – 10% of SPE International dependent on the aspect you are considering.
At the country level, I have in the past few weeks been visiting several Organisations – both Government and Industry - that partner with SPE and I have been getting very valuable feedback on the clear recognition of SPE’s leading role particularly in capacity building. It is re-assuring to know that our partnering Organisations judge that we are meeting the tenets of our missions and adding value to their staff and organizations.
As you may know, the 2013 SPE International President is Mr Egbert Imomoh, Non-Executive Chairman of Afren, a highly respected Petroleum Engineer of Nigerian extraction. He is the first African president of SPE International in its 58 years of existence. This is a proud moment for Nigeria. Mr Imomoh is a long standing member of the SPE in Nigeria, and at various times being the Nigeria Council Chairman and African Regional Director.
Also, through our various activities and programs which I enumerated in the foregoing, SPE Nigeria is playing a pivotal and influential role in developing Nigerian talent for Nigeria Oil and Gas industry.
However, this is not to say we have reached our goal. There are still areas we need to cover and we continue to work tirelessly to raise the game in all aspects of our service to the oil and gas industry.
- Is the Nigerian Petroleum Engineer adequately involved in running the Nigerian Oil and Gas Industry?
The involvement of the Nigerian Petroleum Engineer in running the Nigeria Oil and Gas industry has increased steadily over the years and has been enabled by the Nigerian Content Act and the active uptake of this initiative by the industry.
Today, the demographics of the Nigerian working in the industry is more favourable than in the past, the number of indigenous service companies and operating companies are on the rise.
Overall, onshore operations today is largely indigenized given that it’s more matured and technology transfer is well advanced.
Here too, I do not think we have reached the goal, but the journey is well on its way and steady progress being made.
- Does he reach heights that his expatriate contemporary does?
I think the last question already explores this subject.
- 10 years ago, it was hoped that the Marginal Field awards would help Nigerian Petroleum engineers develop skills to work in the industry and take charge. Looking around now, are you disappointed, assured, or expectant?
The marginal field program was visionary in intent but post-award implementation has been challenging. Ten years after the fields were awarded, seven (ca 29%) of the 24 fields are on production. This provides food for thought, for all stakeholders to consider the learning points, with a view of being able to close the gap with expectation, both for the first set of fields awarded and for future programs. My overall stance is one of expectation of further improvement, noting the successes so far recorded has proved the concept.
SPE Nigeria contributed to the articulation of the initial program by providing the platforms where some of the initial ideas and strategies were seeded and discussed in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. Since then, SPE has continued to provide program to further the discourse on the related joint issues of monetizing marginal fields and increasing indigenous participation in upstream industry. Till date, SPE remains involved in providing avenues to assist in building the necessary capacity to improve the success of this objective.
This year will be no different, there are two programs focused on this and related subjects. The Olibiri Energy forum will examine whether we are on track with the drive for increasing indigenous participation in the industry. It will have subject matter experts who will examine this issue from the key perspectives. SPE welcomes all industry stakeholders to the Oloibiri Lectures and Energy Forum.
Also, as part of the this year’s NAICE, there is the plan to hold a workshop to discuss ‘Best Practices in Marginal Field Development and Production’, where operators who have put their fields on production will be invited to share their experiences with the industry. This promises to be one of the most exciting and attended oil industry workshop of the year 2013. Again, SPE welcomes the industry to the 2013 NAICE which promises to be a landmark for the year.
- Nigeria’s estimated recoverable reserves dropped for the first time in history, in the opinion of the Director of Petroleum Resources. That’s not a very good news. What is the role of the Petroleum Engineer in this kind of challenge?
In the main, recoverable reserves result from a combination of technical, economic and other factors. Reserves growth can be achieved from exploration and from improving the recovery from already discovered hydrocarbons-in-place, to a level that is higher than what is produced, a concept that is technically referred to as reserves replacement.
The Petroleum Engineer has a central role in these technical and economic evaluations. However, today, the non-technical/ non-economic factors including policy framework and funding are also playing equally important, if not more definitive roles in increasing reserves. An enabling Petroleum Industry bill is one key vehicle to address these issues.
On the technical front, key tactics that will be key will be increasing recoverable hydrocarbon volumes includes drilling more wells, putting in more artificial lift systems and increasing the use of secondary and EOR recovery techniques. These field development techniques will need to be complemented with associated technologies eg smart or intelligent wells and fit-for-purpose processing and evacuation facilities solutions. On the economic front, reducing costs is going to be key to increasing recoverable hydrocarbon volumes. Petroleum Engineers is well positioned to address these technical and economic evaluation challenges and are doing so in the government organizations and various companies.
- You are a reservoir engineer yourself, and it does look like the reservoir engineer plays a more active role in the running of the SPE, especially in Nigeria. Ideally, who is qualified as a member? How broad is your reach?
Yes, I am a Reservoir Engineer. I can also confidently say that all Petroleum Engineering and related disciplines are well represented in the membership, participation and running the affairs of SPE Nigeria and globally.
The key requirement for professional membership include holding a University degree in basic or applied sciences or engineering ; and/or 6 years of practice in support of petroleum engineering or in the application of science to the petroleum industry. Hence, membership is open to virtually all staff in the oil and gas industry.
Key requirements for student membership include enrolment in a university in petroleum or a related field, pursuing the equivalent to a bachelors or graduate degree and attending a university with an SPE established student chapter.
Also, within SPE, the members can also signify interest in any of six discipline groupings which are Drilling & Completions, HSSE & Social responsibility, Management & Information, Production & Operations, Projects, facilities & Construction, Reservoir Description & Dynamics.
- An engineer can work either upstream, midstream or downstream. But your focus, year in year out and in most of your technical sessions, have been largely on the upstream. Do you think that Nigeria’s poor record in downstream engineering capability: from Refinery Construction to Compresed Natural Gas stems from the lack of vigorous advocacy from an influential society like SPE?
You are right that historically SPE has been focused on Upstream, but that is now expanding to the other oil and gas spectrums. We now have members from Midstream and Downstream in the society and their impact is beginning to be felt. I will give an example. A few weeks ago the Warri Section had at its Monthly Technical Meeting, a presentation by a downstream expert on turnaround maintenance. I can tell you that the turn-out was one of the largest in recent times at that location.
- Mr Igiehon: You have come to the helm of affairs of SPE Nigeria after
37 40 years of existence of this august body: What do you hope to do differently?