Seplat seeks to acquire Nigerian gas assets

Dr. A.B.C. Orjiako, Chairman, Seplat05 November 2014, Cape Town – Seplat Petroleum Development Company, a Nigerian oil producer that raised about $500 million in a share sale this year, is looking to buy natural-gas assets to take advantage of higher prices in Africa’s biggest economy.

“Two things are driving the gas-commercialisation business: the gas price and increasing demand,” Bloomberg quoted its Chairman, Bryant Orjiako to have said in an interview in Cape Town.

“Another thing that we’re doing is to find any available source of gas.” Nigeria, the holder of Africa’s largest gas reserves, raised the price of gas to power plants to $2.50 per million standard cubic feet plus 80 cents for transport in August, from $1.50.

The country increased gas tariffs to help spur supplies to power plants in Nigeria, which generates less electricity than is needed by Africa’s biggest population of about 170 million. This causes regular blackouts that the government said are a bottleneck for growth, with a shortage of the fuel for stations being one reason why generation is below capacity.

The nation wants to almost triple natural-gas production capacity to 11 billion cubic feet a day by 2020 to help meet its electricity and industrial development needs, Petroleum Minister, Diezani Alison-Madueke had said.

Nigeria loses at least $3 billion in revenue a year by burning off associated gas, which is pumped together with crude oil, according to the Petroleum Ministry. Flaring was taking place because the domestic fuel prices were so low.

Seplat has contracts to supply power generators and is in discussions to add others, Orjiako said. The company sells its gas for about $3 per 1,000 cubic feet to electricity plants, Chief Executive Officer Austin Avuru had said. The price for the fuel has risen from about 20 cents only a couple of years ago, he said.

Royal Dutch Shell Plc (RDSA), Europe’s largest oil company, is selling fields in Nigeria, where it lost almost $1 billion to sabotage in 2013, as part of its $15 billion asset-disposal plan. Seplat will consider some of these fields, Orjiako said. “We are interested in every divestment in the onshore and shallow water,” he said. “Shell, having the largest footprint, obviously has the ability to put up all these assets so we’re looking at all of these.”

Pipeline security has long been an issue in the Niger Delta and is now improving. Throughout the 700-kilometer (435-mile) network in the areas of Seplat assets, there were seven incidents of vandalism in 2011, its first full year of operations, four in 2012 and none since 2013, Orjiako said.

Brent crude has dropped 28 percent from its 2014 high of $115.71 a barrel on June 19. It declined 1.4 percent to $83.57 a barrel at 9:24 a.m. in London. Seplat fell 1.9 percent to 196 pence in the city, extending the decrease this year to 6.7 percent. In the “oil and gas business, like any commodity business, you expect volatility,” Orjiako said. While the oil price has declined, Seplat isn’t limiting itself to gas acquisitions. “Depending on what you find in your environment, you’re bound to adjust,” Orjiako said.

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