Keith Hill, the ‘Landlord’ Leaves: End of an Era in Africa’s Frontier Exploration - Africa’s premier report on the oil, gas and energy landscape.

Keith Hill, the ‘Landlord’ Leaves: End of an Era in Africa’s Frontier Exploration

Keith Hill, who led Africa Oil Corp to purchase a profitable chunk of Nigeria, and witnessed, as partner, Tullow Oil’s opening of Kenya as an oil province, is leaving the Canadian junior as President.

He has been replaced by Roger Tucker, a one-time Senior Vice President Europe, for BG Group.

Hill is the last of the CEOs of those Western headquartered juniors who opened frontier basins around Africa, plotting them on the hydrocarbon map of the world, between 2005 and 2014.

Keith Hill was focused on the East African Rift sequence and Southern African deepwater miogeosynclines.

In 2007, Africa Oil Corp executed a string of agreements with three governments, to earn it 90% stake in 13 acreages, spread over 250,000km2  in Kenya, Ethiopia and Somalia. Hill became the AOC’s Chief Executive two years after those transactions and led the company to derive value from the deals by playing the Landlord.

Hill never risked a single dollar on drilling a well, but he worked up the seismic and other petrological data and presented highly annotated play maps to convince well-heeled companies of the possibility of working hydrocarbon systems in those unexplored frontiers.

AOC sold percentage stakes in several of these acreages to Tullow, Marathon, and New Age.

The discovery of oil by Tullow in one of the Kenyan tracts in April 2012 boosted the quality of the property and bolstered both M. Hill’s and AOC’s reputations.

AOC was smart enough to diversify into acquiring producing properties, in the aftermath of the collapse of the frontier exploration boom. In January 2020, it bought a 50% ownership interest in a subsidiary of Brazil’s Petrobras, specifically Petrobras Oil and Gas B.V. (POGBV) whose primary assets of POGBV consisted of an indirect 8% interest in Oil Mining Lease (OML) 127, containing the Agbami Field and an indirect 16% interest in OML 130, containing producing Akpo and Egina fields.

The company has raked over $350Million in quarterly dividends from that purchase.

Under Keith Hill’s direction, Africa Oil Corp. has been at the right place at the right time. Even today, when the juniors are no more leading the charge in opening new African petroleum basins, it is one of the few Western minnows with stakes in what may become the biggest African discovery in the last 20 years: the Orange Basin offshore Namibia.

Roger Tucker who is Hill’s successor, has had extensive experience running and developing businesses in multiple and varied international environments. He was Senior Vice President Europe, for BG Group; CEO of African Arabian Petroleum Ltd., and Latitude Energy; Managing Director of Yukos Oil; and President LASMO Venezuela and a member of LASMO’s Group Executive Committee. More recently he was Chairman of Viaro Energy and has experience in private equity through Senior Partner-level positions at Prostar Capital and Vanwall Capital. He is currently a Non-Executive Director of PetroTal Corporation.

Mr. Hill has agreed to remain on the Board as a Director of the Company with Dr. Tucker also joining the Board as a Director. The handover will take place on September 5, 2023, and Mr. Hill will continue to lead the Company until that date.

This piece was originally published in the June 2023 edition of the Africa Oil+Gas monthly magazine.


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