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Oil search: Why Nigeria is intensifying surveys in river basins

CLARA NWACHUKWU
Nigeria is intensifying surveys in the eight River Basins in the country with a view to opening up frontier exploration, with a view to attaining the 40 billion barrels reserves and four million barrels daily crude oil production in a couple of years.

Explaining the rationale for intensifying geological surveys in the river basins, Prof. Deborah Ajakaiye, who is leading the geological mapping of Nigeria’s hydrocarbon resources at the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation, NNPC, who disclosed this to Vanguard in an exclusive interview, also said success in hydrocarbon finds in the river basins of neighbouring countries with similar soil texture is fuelling the search
The River Basins under survey include Anambra, Bida, Chad and Dahomey. Others are the Gongola, Lower and Middle Benue basins as well as the Sokoto basin.

With regard to the concentration of survey in the Chad Basin, Ajakaiye, who is also Nigeria’s first female geophysicist, explained that this is because a lot of finds have been made in other neighbouring countries along the rift zone.

According to her, “the Basin (Chad) lies along the West and Central African Rift System. All the basins along the rift zone like Doba, Salamar, Bongo and the Chad Tannit in Niger, there have been a lot of finds and oil exploration.

“The Chinese have found 500 million barrels reserves in Chad itself and a pipeline is being laid to Segigi Field, where a refinery is being built, which is going to serve the whole of Chad. Also, another 500 million barrels were found in the Tannit in Niger, and we have similar soil structure and similar basin, which makes sense to intensify surveys in our own Chad Basin.”

She revealed that the NNPC had done an integrated study of the Chad Basin with 10 international companies, during which 23 oil wells were drilled and areas with oil and gas potential were determined after evaluating the data.

Ajakaiye further said that magnetic works are being done in the other basins, adding that there will also be “ä comprehensive and simultaneous survey acquisition of gravity for electro-magnetic study of the basins for 2D seismic and 3D seismic in the areas found to be very prolific.”

For instance, she recalled that previous works in the Anambra basin had yielded little results, as of the eight wells drilled in the region, seven of them had gas with only found with oil, “so more work is needed to be done in this area to quantify the studies… in Bida, Sokoto and Benue basins, we have not drilled any wells.”

She noted that all these are part of the work being done for frontier exploration in the country, while explaining that for now, government is saddled with all the responsibility of doing the surveys to prove the prospectivity of the basins, as the International Oil Companies, IOCs will only come in thereafter.

Although she admitted that the IOCs operating in the country has cooperated with government with regard to the geological surveys by supplying data where demanded. “Now we don’t have enough data to attract investors, but after the studies companies can now begin to explore for oil based on the findings.”

She further stated that on completion of the geological mapping of the nation hydrocarbon resources, the possibility of determining restricted exploration zones may not be ruled out. According to her, “Every country has strategic policy regarding its natural resources in order to preserve them. So we can’t rule out the possibility that we might have strategic reserve areas and the Department of Petroleum resources, DPR, will demarcate the areas.”

Ajakaiye, who recently returned to Nigeria to contribute her quota to the socio-economic development of the country through hydrocarbon discoveries, noted that this will be the first time the Federal Government is approving a systematic search in all the regions, as hitherto, oil exploration activities were not carried out in a systematical manner.

“Because looking for oil is not cheap and is highly risky and very profitable in the end, most of the exploration activities have been concentrated in the Niger Delta, where the ports are. So what we are now trying to do is to approach from complete surveys and then zero in on the areas that have high prospectivity.”

Similar surveys by Ajakaiye have boosted oil exploration activities in Chad, Cameroun, Congo, Sudan, Egypt, Madagascar as well as in Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Peru, Ecuador, Guatemala, Trinidad and the United States of America.


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