Nigeria could be key gas player: Oil chief

By AFP

July 15, 2010 Updated Feb 25, 2009 at 5:02 PM CDT

Nigeria could be a key player in the global gas industry if obstacles are removed, a multinational oil giant's chief executive said Wednesday, as the west African country neared completing a deal with Russia's Gazprom.

The west African powerhouse which has the seventh largest proven natural gas reserves in the world -- 187 trillion cubic feet -- taps roughly three billion cubic feet a day.

Most of the harnessed gas so far has been targeted for the export market, but the demands of its 140 million people are not fully met.

"Nigeria is very well located as a supplier for major markets like the US..., Mexico, and all Europe," Guy Maurice head of Total Nigeria told an oil and gas investment conference in Abuja.

The country, could occupy a "key position" in the future, said Maurice.

But "the problem is that this requires considerable investment in terms of infrastructure," added Maurice.

The sector needs considerable infrastructural development, a "challenge" in these times of global financial crisis, he said.

But interest in Nigeria's gas is still on the rise, said President Umaru Yar'Adua's special advisor Emmanuel Egbogah.

"The rising gas prices in the western countries is resulting in relocation of gas based industries to low gas price regions such as Nigeria," said Egbogah.

"As a result, we see an increase in proposals from investors," he added.

Russia's oil giant Gazprom on Wednesday said that it was closer to concluding a 2.5 billion-dollar (1.95 billion euro) oil and gas exploration joint venture with Nigeria targeting the domestic market.

The deal should be sealed by end of March, Vladimir Ilyanin, managing director of Gazprom Nigeria said.

On Tuesday, oil giant Royal Dutch Shell announced a 1.6 billion dollar (1.25 billion euro) joint gas production project with Nigeria in the volatile Niger Delta.

A mega future gas project is the 13-billion-dollar Trans-Saharan Gas Pipeline project destined for the European market more than 4,000 kilometres (2,485 miles) from Nigeria, through Niger and into Algeria.

Supplies along the pipeline, expected to reduce dependence on Europe's traditional supplier Russia, are set to start in 2015 at the earliest.

Nigeria has made the development of the gas sector as a priority area, and put in place measures to act on the infrastructural deficiencies, Egbogah, said.

"The gas master plan aims at addressing some of the challenges confronting the Nigerian gas sector, notably that of inadequate infrastructure and commercial framework," said Egbogah.

Nigeria, which holds the largest gas reserves in Africa of around 37 percent and three percent of world reserves, is currently the third largest African producer, after Algeria and Egypt, according to Maurice.

Violence orchestrated by militants claiming to be fighting for a fairer share of oil revenues, has considerably cut Nigeria's production especially of oil.

The conference in Abuja has brought together key political and economic players in the oil and gas sector in Nigeria, as well as international oil companies officials.

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