NNPC Plots a Return to Seismic Activity in the Chad Basin: Mele Kyari’s Valedictory? - Africa’s premier report on the oil, gas and energy landscape.

NNPC Plots a Return to Seismic Activity in the Chad Basin: Mele Kyari’s Valedictory?

By Macson Obojemuinmoin

Nigeria’s state hydrocarbon company NNPC Ltd, is mulling a return to its long-halted seismic acquisition campaign in the vicinity of Maiduguri in the Chad Basin.

Earlier plans to move to a well location in the area, and commence a drilling activity in parallel with the company’s wildcat drilling in Nasarawa State, is held up by decisions to reduce uncertainties with high grade seismic information. Previously scheduled seismic sweep in the Chad Basin has been inhibited by the rampaging Islamic insurgency; while NNPC has been able to carry out operations elsewhere in the north of the country, it has been unable to work in the northeast.

The proposed well locations in Nasarawa, in the country’s north central region, are sited in the middle Benue Trough, one of Nigeria’s several, inland rift sedimentary basins.

NNPC Ltd has carried out extensive geological mapping and geochemical sampling, as well as stress field surveys in some of these basins in the north of the country in the last six years. Based on the results of these surveys, it acquires focused three dimensional (3D) seismic data, which is how it arrived at the specific drilling locations in Nasarawa.

The most prospective of those basins, often considered low hanging fruits, have been the Dahomey (Benin) Basin and the Anambra Basin, both of which are located in the south of the country. They have benefitted from extensive geologic work by the private sector, but the state hydrocarbon firm has ignored those data.

 “When we shoot 3Ds, we are prospect specific. It is not random”, explains a ranking official in the Ministry of Petroleum Resources in Abuja, speaking on condition of anonymity. “If we make a find, we’d drill one or two appraisal wells and then offer the blocks up to the private sector for development”.

The Chad basin campaign, in the far northeast, has been on and off for the past 40 years. As head of state in February 1985, Muhammadu Buhari, then a serving Military General, visited a site of the (then) Chad Basin drilling. At the time, 22 wells had been drilled, with only two of them indicating hydrocarbon shows.

Apart from the Niger Delta, where all the country’s crude oil is currently being extracted, Nigeria has over five sedimentary basins which, earth scientists have confirmed, have working petroleum systems. For most of the last 30 years, the most prospective of those basins, often considered low hanging fruits, have been the Dahomey (Benin) Basin and the Anambra Basin, both of which are located in the south of the country. They have benefitted from extensive geologic work by the private sector, but the state hydrocarbon firm has ignored those data. The NNPC has been only keen on basins located in the north, and has not been transparent with the reports of the resources in place.

The NNPC Ltd’s management had hoped it could drill a well in the Chad basin, before the expiration of Buhari’s tenure at the end of May 2023. If the incoming administration chooses to ease out Mele Kyari, the Nigerian geologist who is NNPC’s Group Chief Executive Officer (GCEO), the Chad Basin seismic acquisition will be one of his key valedictory projects.

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