Appointed Minister of Petroleum Resources by President Buhari in August 2019, Hon. Chief Timipre Marlin Sylva is a man with a vision and mission.
Declaring 2020 as the Year of The Gas for Nigeria, his ministry, under his helm, is intent on ensuring the country taps into the nation’s enormous potential of natural gas in order to grow and diversify the economy.
- Can you give us an overview of the oil and gas sector in Nigeria?
Nigeria is truly a giant because we have been involved in oil production in this country for about 60 years. I can tell you it is not a mature territory yet. If we go to exploration, we can still find a lot of oil. Apart from oil itself, we are endowed with a lot of gas resources. A lot of people feel that Nigeria is more a gas territory with some oil in it. At this point, we have about 200 tcf of gas, and we believe that if we do target exploration, we can take this reserve to 600 tcf. This tells you that it is almost like a greenfield. It is a brownfield-greenfield. That is the way I would like to describe Nigeria. In spite of all the work that has been done, there are still a lot of resources to be tapped. If you look at the reserve levels, you can’t compare with Angola. Yes, they might be doing the same production, but if you compare our reserve levels, we are way ahead. That puts us at the top of the African oil industry.
- You said that 2020 is the year of the gas. How can gas improve other industries and cities in Nigeria?
We are encouraging a lot of gas-based industries; we are trying to encourage the use of gas in our cars and trying to improve LPG penetration in Nigeria. In short, we want to really improve the usage of gas. I am also trying to encourage targeted exploration for gas which we have not done at all in this country. All the gas we have in this country has been found in the course of looking for oil. So, you can imagine what happens if we really have a targeted exploration. Apart from that, you can see that there are new places that come on stream. For example, in the North East we found new reserves of up to one billion barrels of oil, which completely changes everything. If we go deep into that base, we can find a lot of oil. That is why this is a brownfield-greenfield. A very sweet mixture of both. That is why we continue to build talent to attract investors.
- What opportunities are there for investors to come?
It has been a long process to pass the Petroleum Industry Bill (PIB) but we believe that by May 2020 we should be able to pass that and stabilise the fiscal framework, bringing in predictability and stability and so investors will come.
- How important is local content in the sector?
Local content is something very important for us Nigerians. It has moved us from where we started in 1950s and 1960s. Nigerians were spectators in the industry. By moving from there to now, we are at the epicentre of the Nigeria’s oil production. Unlike many other countries, we have really done well in terms of local capacity. I say that if we have access to funding, Nigeria can effectively run an oil industry.
- Why is now time to invest in Nigeria?
We are very happy that investors have a lot of confidence in Nigeria. We just took the FDI on Train 7. We are likely to take FDI on Bonga South West and a couple of other big projects. We are also going to take FDI on grass fertiliser in the Morocco-Nigeria ammonia plant. When we do this, Nigeria will be a big worksite. I am very confident that this is going to happen very soon. We are very serious about this and mindful of the fact that the oil economy is moving fast, close to a point where oil will no longer account for a lot of global fuel. People think that oil might come down to 50% of energy at global level, so we are trying to accelerate investment in the sector.