NUPRC Explores Ways On How To Optimise Production of Nigeria’s 1.6bn Barrels Heavy Crude Reserves



The Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission (NUPRC)  Wednesday met with industry operators and service providers on ways to harness Nigeria’s 1.6 billion heavy crude oil reserves, out of which it said only 5 percent is currently developed.

Gbenga Komolafe, the Chief Executive of the NUPRC, while speaking during an industry-wide workshop in Abuja organised by the commission, noted that given the current dynamics in the sector, Nigeria needs a paradigm shift from traditional, ‘siloed’ approaches towards a collaborative model that leverages the strengths of all stakeholders.

His speech was themed: “Entrenching Accelerated Development of Petroleum Prospecting Licenses (PPL) Assets and Heavy Crude Reserves Through Strategic Partnerships with Technology Drivers and Industry Service Providers.”

“Heavy crude oil certainly is part of our valued hydrocarbon resources but yet to be effectively valorised. Heavy crude oil, often characterised by its high density and viscosity, presents a significant opportunity for Nigeria’s energy sector.

“Available records reveal that as of January 1, 2024, Nigeria’s heavy crude reserves stood at about 1.67 billion barrels. 62 per cent of this volume is proven while 38 per cent is unproven. 71 per cent of the total reserves are domiciled in acreages operated by NEPL, 12 per cent in IOC-owned acreages, and 17 per cent are found in other operating companies’ acreages.

“In terms of terrain, we have 78 per cent onshore, 3 per cent at swamp, and 19 per cent offshore. Despite this huge volume, the quantum of heavy crude oil reserves developed in Nigeria is just about 5 per cent. As a result, there is a need for a concerted effort to improve value delivery from this segment of the petroleum spectrum, which will ultimately lead to energy security, job creation, and economic growth,” he stated.

Komolafe  whose speech was themed: “Entrenching Accelerated Development of Petroleum Prospecting Licenses (PPL) Assets and Heavy Crude Reserves Through Strategic Partnerships with Technology Drivers and Industry Service Providers,” stated that  the development of heavy crude is not without challenges, with the high viscosity of heavy crude requiring sophisticated extraction and processing techniques.

He stated further that the high sulphur content of heavy crude results in higher greenhouse gas emissions during production, which raises environmental concerns.

Despite these challenges, he explained that with the right strategies, Nigeria can effectively develop its heavy crude resources by investing in research and development to develop and adopt innovative extraction and processing technologies that focus on reducing the environmental impact and improving the efficiency of heavy crude production.

Stressing that the upstream sector remains the bedrock of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry, he stated that the sector faces numerous challenges, including aging infrastructure, declining production, and the ever-present need to adapt to evolving global energy demands.

For the commission, the NUPRC chief executive explained that collaboration was not merely a buzzword, but a key to unlocking the full potential of Nigeria’s oil fields.

“By working together, oil field owners, service providers, and the regulator can optimise resource utilisation, enhance operational efficiency, accelerate technological adoption, and improve regulatory compliance,” he explained.

Komolafe said that the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA), 2021 has implemented transformative changes in Nigeria’s upstream oil and gas industry, establishing new licensing regimes and introducing PPL Awardees into the landscape.

To ensure that the PIA’s objectives and the federal government’s aspirations for the upstream oil and gas sector are met, he stated that stakeholders must develop progressive and efficient relationships.

“We’re here today to answer some critical questions: what should PPL awardees do to efficiently develop their assets? How can service providers, particularly rig owners, ensure that specific timelines are met? How can the regulator ensure that we successfully address the many challenges that might hinder success? And most importantly, how can we work together to unlock the full potential of our national resources?

“We all have a role in ensuring sustainable value creation from Nigerian petroleum resources. As stakeholders, oil field owners must provide clear and consistent project objectives, facilitate open communication and data sharing, and champion innovation and technological advancements.

“Service providers must be ready to provide innovative solutions and technologies as well as offer technical expertise and support to oil field owners while also collaborating with them and the regulator,” he observed.

Komolafe pointed out that as a regulator, the commission will continually foster a favourable regulatory environment, leverage technology and support Research and Development (R&D) initiatives.

As part of the highlights of the two-day event, he said that the commission  was focused on optimising Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources in the midst of energy transition onslaught and momentum.

He stressed the need for capacity building in the oil and gas industry to effectively handle the complexities of heavy crude development.

“ Effective collaboration between the government, industry players, and academic institutions is crucial for the successful development of heavy crude. This will encourage knowledge sharing, technology transfer, and policy development,” he stated.

At the end of the meeting, the chief executive of the NUPRC said the agreed-upon best practices aimed at improving efficiency, transparency, and sustainability within the sector will be released.

There are light, medium and heavy crude oils, with heavy crude being highly viscous and cannot easily flow from production wells under normal reservoir conditions.


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