Reuters Nigeria on Friday renewed three shallow water oil licences jointly operated with ExxonMobil, granting the U.S. energy firm leases of a further 20 years with the option to renew again.
â€œToday we have reached an agreement on the terms of new leases that will go on for a furtherÂ 20 years with an option to renew,â€ Minister of State for Petroleum Odein Ajumogobia toldÂ reporters in the capital Abuja.
Western oil firms including Exxon, Royal Dutch Shell and Chevron operate in Nigeria throughÂ joint ventures with state oil firm NNPC. The three licences __ OML 67, 68 and 70 __ areÂ currently producing 580,000 barrels per day of oil and include the Oso, Ekpe, Edop and UbitÂ fields. They originally expired in November 2008 and were first given to Exxon in 1968.
â€œWe certainly have with our partner NNPC a very aggressive capital investment programme thatÂ we perceive continuing to develop and grow the production reserves for these three leases,â€Â said Mark Ward, Exxonâ€™s managing director in Nigeria.
Industry executives have said in recent months that the contract renewal negotiationsÂ between Nigeria and its Western oil partners have been difficult, with China also seeking toÂ gain a stronger foothold in Africaâ€™s top energy industry.
Chinese state energy firm CNOOC in September identified 23 licences in Nigeria in which itÂ would like to buy stakes, including 16 operated by Shell, Chevron and Exxon which expiredÂ last November and were up for renewal. Chevron and Exxon won a yearâ€™s extension, while ShellÂ successfully sought a court injunction last November allowing it to continue to operate. TheÂ Anglo_Dutch firm is still in talks with the Nigerian government over its licence renewals.
Ajumogobia said in September that China had made a proposal to buy 6 billion barrels ofÂ Nigeriaâ€™s crude oil reserves and that Nigeria could sell its own stakes in joint venturesÂ with Western oil firms to help Beijing do so.
â€œThere was never any consideration of selling or trading one firm for another,â€ he said onÂ Friday at the joint news conference with Exxon, but added: â€œNNPC has a right to relinquishÂ any part of its equity to any third party that expresses interest and it is in that regardÂ that the discussions with the Chinese have been carrying on.â€