By VINCENT UJUMADU, Awka
WHAT the people of Anambra State had been clamouring for over the years is about to happen and that is that the state will soon be included among the oil producing states in the country with its attendant benefits. Though the Anambra River basin was known to be rich in crude oil and gas deposits, it was placed on what was described in the industry, as strategic reserve.
However, following the efforts of notable persons from the state who are stakeholders in the Orient Petroleum Resources Plc, the company prospecting for oil in the area and with the support of the present administration led by Governor Peter Obi, a major breakthrough in making Anambra an oil producing state has been achieved.
The company has plans to establish housing estates to serve the workers. There is also a plan to have an airstrip in the area for which a committee made up of experts in the aviation industry is already working on. Other activities being embarked upon by the company include gas processing and transmission, as well as power generation and transmission, oil and gas exploration and production and petroleum refining.
When it comes on full stream, Orient Petroleum Refinery, which has its operational office at Otuocha in Anambra East local government area, would process crude oil from its facility at Aguleri Otu in Anambra West local government of the state. Other byproducts of the refinery are petrol, diesel, kerosene, road grade asphalt, and cooking gas and would offer about 2000 jobs.
OPR has an integrated business model that spans the upstream and downstream of the petroleum industry. After the Federal Government of Nigeria (FGN) granted the company the license to establish, and the approval to construct its 55,000 bpd refinery in 2002 and 2004, respectively, the company had gone ahead to obtain from the FGN in 2005 the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) certificate for its refinery, which made Orient Petroleum the first refinery in Nigeria to obtain such an EIA certificate.
The company decided early in 2011 to fast-track a staged development of its two oil blocks, OPL 915 and OPL 916 by initial completion and production testing of one of the already drilled oil wells and 3D seismic data acquisition.
The two blocks are very close to the location of the company’s refining facility at Aguleri Otu. This staged oil field development is expected to generate cash flow to support the financing and early completion of the refinery, which officials of the company observed, is a capital intensive project.
Chairman of the Orient Petroleum Resources Ltd and former secretary general of the Commonwealth, Chief Emeka Anyaoku confirmed that the company would start crude oil exploration, production and sales this year and since receiving the two oil blocks, the company has been conducting the necessary exploration and production work to ensure timely provision of crude feedstock to the refinery.
It is envisaged that completion of the refinery installation would be by end 2012, including overseas procurement and shipment of long lead items and on-site fabrication of storage tanks.
After many years of waiting therefore, the joy of the host communities in Anambra State knew no bounds when it became clear to them that all is set for Anambra State to join the league of oil producing states in Nigeria ..
When the chairman, board of directors, Chief Anyaoku announced that production would soon begin, the people beat their drums and danced to the admiration of the visitors. Anyaoku, in company of Governor Peter Obi, former vice president, Dr Alex Ekwueme, Managing Director of Orient Petroleum Plc, Engr. Emeka Nwawka, Igwe Peter Anukwu of Mbaukwu and other stakeholders, inspected the oil facilities at Aguleri Otu and were shown round the oil well by top officials of the company.
When Orient Petroleum eventually starts production, it would mark the first time crude would be produced in inland basin in the country. Already, the company’s service contractor had made significant progress in the acquisition of high resolution 3D seismic data over 640 square kilometers of Orient’s oil blocks OPL 915 & 916 to delineate the full extent of the hydrocarbon discoveries and prospects.
During the visit, the team also inspected the 20- kilometre access road to the oil wells and the 10 -kilometre flow line for evacuating crude to a spot at Anambra River basin from where evacuation of crude would be undertaken by barges to Brass in Bayelsa State . It had also completed acquisition of seven hectares of land from Kogi State for establishment of a depot for distribution of petroleum products from the refinery to the north and other parts of the country.
Managing Director of Orient Petroleum, Mr. Emeka Nwawka who was elated at the level of progress made by the company, assured that Anambra will soon join the club of oil producing States and commended Governor Obi for his interest in the project and appealed to him to continue to support it. He said the drilling environment conformed to international standards.
Obi, on his part, commended the board of Orient Petroleum for its resilience and determination to bring the project on stream, noting that when functional, the company would among other things, create employment, fast-track overall development of the host community, as well as contribute in strengthening the state and national economy. He also assured of continued government support for the project.
The main problem starring the oil company in the face is the deplorable condition of road leading to the oil facilities.
For instance, for one to get to the well site at Aguleri Otu, he has to pass through Ezeagu local government in Enugu State and then ferry over the Anambra River by pontoon to the Anambra State end where the oil deposits were struck and where the refinery is located.
Governor Obi, who was not happy with such strenuous journey which he observed, entails so much waste of quality man hour, is already thinking of a way out of the problem. It was gathered that the governor has already directed officials of the state ministry of works to study the possibility of constructing a road and a bridge from Anaku area directly to Aguleri Otu for easy access to the site of the oil facilities.
Obi had also severally announced that the the area where the oil facility is located, would form part of the proposed mega city that would extend to the commercial city of Onitsha .