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Research as Fundamental to achieving Nigeria’s Quest for Hydrocarbon Prospectivity in the Inland Basins

T he inauguration of the drilling of Kolmani River II Well by President Muhammadu Buhari in Bauchi on 12th February, 2019 not only signifies the…

T he inauguration of the drilling of Kolmani River II Well by President Muhammadu Buhari in Bauchi on 12th February, 2019 not only signifies the commencement of oil exploration in Nigeria’s frontier basins but marks a significant milestone towards the realization of a very key plank of this administration’s economic recovery and growth plan. According to the President, while flagging off what in technical terms is the spud-in of the Kolmari RiverII well in the Gongola basin of the Upper Benue Trough, national energy sufficiency cannot be achieved through hydrocarbon resources from the conventional basins alone.

Therefore, exploration in frontier basins is a national imperative to improve the nation’s quest for greater oil and gas reserve; drive oil and gas production and spin-off socio-economic activities across the country. The next level according to the President is for the Federal government to ensure that this same exploration effort is extended to all Nigeria’s frontier basins namely the Chad basin, Gongola Basin, Anambra Basin, Sokoto Basin, Dahomey basin, Bida Basin and Benue trough.

The NNPC through its Frontier Exploration Services (FES) has already acquired a 20km 2D data out of the planned 455km 2d seismic in Benue Trough while similar effort for 3D seismic data is being intensified in the Maiduguri axis of the Chad basin. This renewed vigor, therefore, emphasizes the need for government institutions to step up efforts towards the realization of the vision for more hydrocarbon resources in Nigeria as the more oil we have the better for Nigeria. The Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) is one of the Federal Government institutions contributing its quota in achieving the nation’s quest for greater oil resources. Its sponsorship of research in universities through the Endowment of Professorial Chairs and Award of Research Grants to local researchers are part of the strategies deployed by PTDF to find solutions to current and future problems of the oil and gas industry.

The research interventions not only serve as enablers in investigating areas of contemporary significance to the oil and gas industry by local researchers but also strives to provide workable solutions to specific industry problems. One of such areas of national importance is the hydrocarbon prospectivity of Nigeria’s inland basins, where PTDF has over the years made significant investment in research towards exploring the economic potentials of the inland basins. PTDF as a result instituted a Chair in Petroleum Geology at the University of Nigeria Nsukka to investigate the hydrocarbon prospectivity of the Anambra Basin, one of the inland basins in Nigeria.

Others include the University of Jos where a professorial chair was endowed in Geology and Mineral Science with focus on the hydrocarbon prospectivity of the Benue Trough; The University of Maiduguri where PTDF endowed a Chair in Basinal Studies to investigate the hydrocarbon prospectivity of the Chad Basin, and Usman Dan Fodio University, Sokoto where the Chair on Petroleum Chemistry seeks to identify the hydrocarbon potentials of the Sokoto Basin.

These research interventions by PTDF were undertaken with the realization that every exploration effort begins with research to determine the geology, stratigraphy and economic viability of a basin before any mining and or exploration could take place. A key initiative of the National Oil and Gas policy is the harnessing of hydrocarbon reserves in Nigerian frontier basins. This is because the more oil and gas Nigeria can have as recoverable reserves, the better it will be for its national economy and development. This is even more crucial as Nigeria’s proven oil reserves are being depleted at a very fast rate and may become extinct in a couple of decades. Since the Niger-Delta and the offshore regions of the country are largely exploited, further discoveries of oil reserves can only be achieved by exploring the Inland Basins of the country.

Inspite of the recent surge towards renewable technologies, hydrocarbon will remain an important component of the global energy mix in the foreseeable future. Consequently, there is a need to increase the nation’s proven reserves of oil and gas for local needs and to maintain Nigeria’s competitiveness in the global energy market. British Petroleum World Energy Statistical review point to the fact that fossil fuel as sources of energy are expected to continue to dominate other primary energy sources and will account for up to 60% of the World energy demand up to the year 2050.

Last year, the Petroleum Technology Development Fund (PTDF) organized a Regional Technology Knowledge Sharing Programme (TKSP) to give greater impetus to the prospectivity of hydrocarbon resources in Nigeria’s inland basins. The Regional Technology Knowledge Sharing Programme (RTKSP) kickstarted in Sokoto with a focus on the hydrocarbon potentials of the Sokoto Basin where PTDF has an ongoing research on ‘Geochemical evaluation and mapping of the potential source rocks in the Sokoto Basin’ at the Usman Dan Fodio University.

The occasion attracted experts in petroleum geosciences with experience in Inland Basin analysis. They include Petroleum Geologists, Petroleum Geophysicists, Geochemists, Engineers as well as veteran petroleum explorers from both the industry and the academia. The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC), Department of Petroleum Resources, the Raw Materials Research and Development Council, as well as Governors of Sokoto, Kebbi, and other contiguous States of Katsina and Zamfara States, attended the research review event.

Stakeholders at the programme were unanimous in commending the Federal Government effort in exploring the hydrocarbon potentials of Nigeria’s inland basins which they said will help consolidate peace and economic prosperity in the country. They are of the view that massive investments are necessary for effective exploration activities in all the inland basins in Nigeria as indicated by experiences from the discovery of commercial hydrocarbon quantities in various basins in the West African Rift System.

The experts made a case for increased funding for PTDF to invest in further research activities across the inland basins and to possibly form a consortium of researchers and experts consisting of geochemists, geophysicists, sedimentologists, stratigraphers, structural geologists and other relevant exploration experts to strategize for a robust concerted effort in exploring for hydrocarbon in the inland basin. This piece was contributed by the Press and External Relations Unit of the Petroleum Technology Development Fund, PTDF