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Meg O’Neill Takes Hold of Woodside Energy and well… the ‘Big Australian’

The appointment of Meg O’Neill as Woodside’s new chief executive means she will be superintending the creation of a “Big Australian” company from the proposed merger of Woodside with BHP’s petroleum division.

She will also see to the company’s achievement of first oil in Senegal, scheduled for 2023.

The merged company will be in the top 10 of independent global oil and gas producers, in the opinion of Keith Pitt, Australia’s Resources Minister.

“Having dealt with Ms. O’Neil over the past few months since her appointment as interim CEO of Woodside, I am confident she is the right person to lead the new Woodside through the challenges of a merger of this size and complexity,” Mr. Pitt says, in a congratulatory statement.

O’Neill was appointed on August 17, 2021, succeeding Peter Coleman, who retired from Woodside, Australia’s largest E&P company, in June 2021.

She joined Woodside in May 2018 as chief operations officer. In October 2019, she became executive vice president development, and in August 2020, assumed responsibility for marketing.

Prior to joining Woodside, O’Neill held senior technical and business positions at ExxonMobil including assignments in Indonesia, Norway, Canada, and the US, and regional roles responsible for Asia/Pacific and Africa.

She holds dual Bachelor’s degrees in Ocean Engineering and Chemical Engineering and a Master Degree in Ocean Systems Management from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Ouattara Shakes Up Petroci Management

The board of directors of Petroci, Cote d’Ivoire’s state hydrocarbon company, has appointed Vamissa Bamba as Chief Executive Officer (CEO), effectively removing Ibrahima Diaby, who had been in office since July 2015.

The board, acting on the instruction of President Alassane Ouattara, also picked Sié Georges Kam as deputy general manager in charge of Petroci’s production (a sort of COO) and appointed Tiotioho Soro as new director-general of the Société Ivoirienne de Raffinage (SIR), the Ivorien Refining Company which is run separately from the upstream minded Petroci.

The job of deputy general manager, production at Petroci had been open since the death of Marcelle Gauly in early 2021. The appointment of the new CEO will be confirmed at the next Council of Ministers, scheduled before the government recess from the week of August 16, 2021.

Vamissa Bamba was Managing Director of CI-11, a subsidiary in charge of the country’s most productive offshore block, which hosts the Lion and Panthère fields. He was also the company’s director of drilling.

At SIR, Soro replaces Thomas Camara, who was elevated to the position of Minister of Petroleum last March, after nine years on the job.

Petroci earned 418Million Euros as revenues in 2019.

Plain Luck or Sheer Grit? Tony Attah Leaves NLNG After Construction Starts on Train 7

Tony Attah leaves the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas Ltd at the end of August 2021, close to two years after having delivered on the most crucial item on his to-do list; leading the company to a Final Investment Decision (FID) on the seventh LNG Plant (Train).

He is handing over the reins of the Chief Executive Officer job to Phillip Mshelbila, the former GM Gas at Shell Nigeria, who is currently rounding up a cross posting and experience broadening term as Managing Director of the Atlantic LNG Company of Trinidad and Tobago.

The NLNG Train 7, as the project is called, will produce 8Million Metric Tonnes Per Annum Per Year for the global market. It will increase Nigeria’s total LNG capacity to 30Million Metric Tonnes Per Year (30MMTPA). Groundbreaking ceremony for the construction was celebrated on June 15, 2021, and completion is expected by late 2024 or early 2025.

Attah, a mechanical engineer by training, who was previously Managing Director of Shell Nigeria Exploration Producing Company SNEPCo, is the only CEO from an IOC background, working in Nigeria, who has delivered a project of that magnitude in the country last five years. The cost of Train 7 is around $10Billion. Attah is, first and last, a Shell employee, who was seconded to the AngloDutch major’s third largest Liquefication Plant in the world. (Shell’s 26.5% equity in NLNG Ltd, translated to an entitlement of 5.3MMTPA from the company in 2020, which in turn meant 15% of Shell’s total 35.6MMTPA for the year).

To get at 8MMTPA, the NLNG Ltd will liquefy around 1.1Billion standard cubic feet of gas every day. That is one-seventh of Nigeria’s entire natural gas output. The NLNG’s extant 22MMTPA capacity valourises 3Billion standard cubic feet of gas per day, or 42% of the country’s total gas production.

Tony Attah took the reins of NLNG Ltd, nine years after the last Liquefaction Plant (Train 6) came on stream. Before him, two Chef Executives had worked to get Train 7 project off the ground, with some traction, but not visible success.

There were issues to do with the several options before the NNPC, the government’s 49% investor in the project. As of 2008, the cash strapped state hydrocarbon company was considering investments in two other LNG projects: the 5MMTPA Brass LNG and the 10MMTPA Olokola NLNG. By 2012, the government was zeroing in on Brass LNG, while NLNG’s Train 7 had quietly rolled off the burner. In 2015, a new government, formed by a new political party, came to power and looked far more favourably at Train 7.

“I have just received the key, that key will unlock Train-7. Train-7 will be real,” Attah said at the formal hand-over ceremony between him and his predecessor, Babs Omotowa, in September 2016. It was a loud affirmation, expressed, not in the closed, if cozy, confines of the boardroom, but in the public space.

Still the project had to be financed, even if the government was keen. “NNPC is on the average about 57% of the JV upstream”, Attah told Africa Oil+Gas Report’s Kish Onwunali in the NLNG Ltd’s office in Abuja, in September 2018. And as all the major gas supply partners (Shell, TOTALEnergies, and ENI) were junior partners to NNPC upstream, “the funding challenges were really around the equity funding of the NNPC element because the IOCs are responding”, he said. “In order not to allow anything stop us, we have come up with a framework to work with the government to look at possibilities that would include perhaps, a forward sale payment and go into agreement with government to just be sure that the supply is properly financed. And I think we are not far off. We recently signed an MOU with NNPC on funding but overall, the project itself will have to be financed and the NLNG Ltd side of it is never the issue because that will rise on our balance sheet”.

Fast forward, a full year and four months after that conversation: FEED is done, finance is ready, Local content compliance ticked off; more suppliers signed on than the current four (Shell, TOTALEnerigies, ENI, Niger Delta E&P), now including Sunlink and Oando; more LPG production committed to the local market; some LNG volume committed to domestic off-takers and yes, FID is taken.

A year and six months after FID, Attah superintends the kickstart of construction of the largest midstream hydrocarbon project in West Africa and a month later, the board of NLNG announces his exit. It’s the stuff of a dream.

Mustafa Indimi Is New CEO of Oriental Energy

Mustafa Indimi has been appointed as the new Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Oriental Energy Resources, the Nigerian independent and operator of the Ebok field in the country’s shallow water south east offshore.

A son of the company’s founder and owner Mohammed Indimi, he has worked on the company’s core assets for the past ten years.

He takes over from Ignatius Ifelayo, the personable, but self-effacing petroleum engineer and former General Manager with Chevron and Texaco. That Mr. Ifelayo, for over five years, ran the Indimis’ family E&P company, in which five of the seven-person board of directors are all  Indimis, is itself a measure of management skill.

Mustafa Indimi, who holds a master’s degree in petroleum production engineering from Robert Gordon University, was a planning engineer with Afren, the London listed firm which funded the development of the Ebok field and operated it from farm in agreement in 2008 through first oil in 2011, until Afren’s bankruptcy in 2015, when Oriental became the full operator, by default.

Ebok currently produces between 13,000-14,000Barrels of oil per day, a steep drop from around 22,000BOPD five years ago, which was itself a plunge from 40,000BOPD output recorded I January 2012. Part of the new CEO’s remit is to secure investment to boost the output as well as finalise development of Okwok field, the company’s other asset.

Indimi began work as planning engineer in the year of Ebok’s first oil His undergraduate studies focused on Economic Evaluation & Investment Decision methods at the Colorado School of Mines.

He was promoted project manager two years later in 2013, with oversight of Ebok field.

The new CEO was appointed Executive Director Oriental Energy Resources when the company took over operatorship of the asset, by default in 2015 and has held the position since.

Ruth Nankabirwa is Uganda’s New Petroleum Minister, Will Oversee FID for Lake Albert

By Akpelu Paul Kelechi

President Yoweri Museveni of Uganda has appointed Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu, former Chief Whip in the government, as the new Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, a powerful position which includes oversight of power supply and exploration and production of petroleum resources.

With a new cabinet in place after a bitterly fought election, the Ugandan government can proceed to consider the one major item on the table: the Final Investment Decision for the Lake Albert development project, the Ugandan basin wide crude oil development, which has been on course for 15 years.

Nankabirwa, 55, is a career politician who has been in government since 1998. She replaces Irene Muloni, the Ugandan engineer who had headed the Energy and Mineral Development Ministry for 10 years since 2011, and saw much of the challenging twists and turns of the Lake Albert development, all through to April 2021, when the partners TOTALEnergies, CNOOC, and the Tanzanian and Ugandan governments, concluded the final agreements required to launch this major project.

The discovery of oil, via the drilling of Mputa 1 onshore Uganda, was made in 2006, a year before the well that led to Ghana’s first oil in 2010 was drilled. But the tyranny of geology (landlocked, waxy crude, over a thousand kilometres from the coast), and one of the industry’s most arduous regulatory processes (the Ugandan bureaucracy), stalled the development.

Uganda’s new energy minister served as Chief Government Whip, a Cabinet-level position in the country’s executive apparatus from March 2015 to May 2021, when the cabinet was dissolved. Before then, she was State Minister for Fisheries from May 2011 to March 2015 and was State Minister for Microfinance from February 2009 to May 2011.

A graduate of Fine Art (Bachelor’s degree) and Conflict Studies (Master’s), from Makerere University, Nankabirwa started her political work in 1994, when she served as a delegate to the Constituent Assembly.

In 1996, Ruth Nankabirwa was elected to serve as the member of parliament for Woman Delegate for Kiboga District. From 1998 through 2001, she served as Minister of State for the Lowero Triangle in the Office of the Prime Minister. Between 2001 and 2009, she served as State Minister for Defence. The Energy Minister’s j position, then, is her first as a senior Minister.

Tim Woodall Walks Out on FAR

FAR has announced Timothy Woodall’s resignation from its Board, one day to his proposed re-election as a director.

The exit, announced by the company June 21, 2021, was “effective immediately”. 

Mr. Woodall has been a Director since August 2017 and an Executive Director since September 2019.

He was FAR’s commercial director, overseeing the company’s upstream asset sales and purchases and overall deal making. 

Prior to taking executive role at FAR, Woodall, an Australian national, was managing director of Miro Advisors for six years, chief executive of oil and gas technical consulting firm RISC and chief financial officer of New Orleans based intermediate E&P company, Energy Partners.

His resume says he has worked as an executive director in the energy division at UBS’ London offices and spent three years in the Credit Suisse oil and gas team in New York. He was also head of corporate development at Woodside Energy, Australia’s largest E&P firm.

FAR said of Woodall’s decision to quit: “As a result of Mr.Woodall’s resignation, the resolution to re-elect Mr. Woodall as a director (Resolution 2) to be voted on by shareholders at the Company’s Annual General Meeting has been withdrawn. The Annual General Meeting will be held tomorrow, 22 June 2021. FAR advised on 7 May 2021 and in the Notice of Meeting dated 21 May 2021 that Mr. Woodall’s executive role would cease on 2 July 2021”.

Lekan ‘Remains CEO of Lekoil Nigeria’, Fights Termination by Lekoil Cayman

Lekoil Nigeria, has reacted to the termination of Lekan Akinyanmi’s contract as Chief Executive of Lekoil Limited, the AIM listed company which is actually Lekoil Cayman.

It says that the decision, announced June 3, 2021, is the culmination of the efforts of the consortium led by Metallon Corporation to take control of Lekoil Cayman as foreshadowed in the circular to shareholders of Lekoil Cayman dated 11 December 2020. 

Lekoil Cayman had said that the sack of Lekan Akinyanmi, with immediate effect, was due to a corporate governance breach. “The Company will commence a search for a new CEO and, in the interim period, Anthony Hawkins will act as interim Executive Chairman of the Company”.

But Lekoil Nigeria Limited declares, in a counter release: ”Mr. (Lekan)Akinyanmi remains on the Board of Lekoil Nigeria Limited and also its Chief Executive Officer. Mr. Akinyanmi created and executed the vision of an independent indigenous Nigerian energy company that is Lekoil, for this generation and in this emerging market and he has always worked with the best interest of Lekoil shareholders in mind”. It then says that “Lekoil Nigeria remains committed to the vision of developing Nigeria’s energy sector’.

Does it look complicated?

Lekoil Cayman is the investment vehicle which raises money on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) of the London Stock Exchange, for the property acquired by Lekoil Nigeria. Lekoil Nigeria owns the assets, the more substantial of which are, 40% of the Otakikpo Field onshore (producing roughly 5,500 Barrels of Oi Per Day gross) and 17% equity in the undeveloped Ogo field, in shallow to deep water Benin Basin offshore Lagos. The estimated reserves, unproven is stated as in excess of 500 Million Barrels of Oil Equivalent.  Lekoil Cayman has 10% of Lekoil Nigeria in equity, but may have up to 90% of the economic interest. This part is not clear.

Back to the issue at hand.

Lekoil Cayman’s notice of termination had added that Anthony Hawkins became interim non-executive chair only in April 2021, after Michael Ajukwu resigned, after having been in the chair since January 2021. 

But Lekoil Nigeria’s response argues that “recent additions to the board of Lekoil Cayman by Metallon Corporation and its collaborators should have been vetted (as is the practice of LekoilCayman) and due diligenced as required by the AIM Rules and as would be normal for listed companies”.

It notes that “seasoned oil sector executives such as George Maxwell, and former directors with deep knowledge of the continent, such as Mark Simmonds, have resigned and been replaced with directors lacking industry expertise, knowledge of the continent, impartiality and objectivity and appointed to secure for Metallon Corporation and its collaborators, the full takeover of Lekoil Cayman”. 

Lekoil Nigeria contends that “the procedure leading to the termination of Mr. Akinyanmi’s service is not compliant with the company’s corporate governance policies. Together with the appointment of unvetted new appointments to the board of Lekoil Cayman by the Metallon Corporation consortium, it is clear that the majority of the board of Lekoil Cayman is failing persistently to comply with its corporate governance code, yet the board of Lekoil Cayman determines on this ground to terminate the service of Mr Akinyanmi”. 

Conclusion, for now, by Lekoil Nigeria: “While we take legal counsel regarding this decision by Lekoil Cayman, we wish to assure our numerous stakeholders, especially the Nigerian people that the strategic national assets under our purview will be protected by all legitimate means available to us”

Conclusion, for now,  by Lekoil Cayman: “Lekoil is the lender under a loan agreement with Mr. Akinyanmi, of which outstanding balance, as of May 31 2021, was approximately $1.5Million. The company will commence proceedings to recover the Loan”.

Dorothy Thompson Eased out of Tullow’s Chair

Tullow Oil plc announced, June 3, 2021, that Dorothy Thompson CBE, Non-Executive Chair, had decided to step down from the company’s board of directors.

She hadn’t spent three years on the seat; having joined the Tullow Board in April 2018 and become Chair in September of the same year.

So, was she eased out or did she leave on her own?

The former, more likely, although Tullow didn’t respond to our query.

At the time of her appointment, Tullow had noted that Ms. Thompson was bringing executive leadership to the table, as well as public company governance and leadership, investor relations, corporate finance, accounting and audit, business development, risk management, technology and innovation.

15 months into her tenure, in December 2019, the company experienced a headlong crash in stock price as a result of poorly managed perception around production challenges in its Ghanaian assets, the jewel in the Tullow crown.

Tullow Board, under Ms. Thompson, saw off the company’s Chief Executive and its ‘legendary’ exploration director, then turned to the shareholders, pleading that the company had failed the market, with hardly any upbeat tone in the messaging. 

The statement made too much fuss of the gas offtake in Ghana, which is not one of Tullow’s main revenue earners; it expressed too much worry about Tullow’s debts, which had not yet reached unmanageable territory (no near-term debt maturities), and most crucially, it struggled to show that what had happened in the course of the second to third quarter operations were very minor slips in an otherwise smooth journey. Tullow’s story was far better than was painted in the December 9, 2019 statement.  Ms.Thompson had acted, at the time, like someone deeply uncomfortable with the day-to-day risks of the E&P game.

In the view of Africa Oil+Gas Report, the sharp crash in stock price came about as a result of an unnecessary own goal. 

Admittedly, Ms. Thompson has done a lot of work in the last one year on strategy. Tullow is laser focused on Ghana now; it plans to invest $2Billion into operations in the country over the next 10 years, hoping to reach peak production of 275,000 Barrels of Oil Per Day (close to double current production) and 150Million standard cubic feet per day from the investment. But the mistakes of 2019 were so expensive and had rattled the company badly. They had also been ill timed: happening unfortunately just before the year of the great crash. 

A search process to find a new Chair has been launched and is expected to conclude towards the end of the summer. Ms. Thompson will remain Chair of Tullow until the new Chair is appointed and an appropriate handover has taken place.

Schlumberger Appoints Siemens’ Vice President as its New Chief of Strategy

Schlumberger has announced the appointment of Katharina Beumelburg to the position of Chief Strategy and Sustainability Officer, Schlumberger Limited, reporting to Olivier Le Peuch, Chief Executive Officer. The appointment is effective Monday, May 17, 2021.

Ms. Beumelburg was Senior Vice President, Global Transmission Services at Siemens Energy, a subsidiary of Siemens, a global technology company, headquartered in Germany.

She took a doctorate degree from the University of Stuttgart in 2005, after earning her first engineering qualification at Universität Siegen, over a five-year period (1995 to 2000), during which she also trained in industrial engineering at the University of Tulsa (1997-1998), 

“As a member of the executive team, Dr. Beumelburg will oversee corporate strategy, sustainability, marketing and communications activities across the Company”, Schlumberger says.

“Dr. Beumelburg has held various leadership positions in Siemens, including strategy development incorporating sustainability; management consulting; business excellence; and operationsmanagement”. 

Kaine Cliffe is Oilserv’s New GCOO, Replacing Gbite Falade

Oilserv Limited, the Nigerian gas pipeline contractor, has appointed Celestine Kaine Cliffe as the new Group Chief Operating Officer, [GCOO], of the company.

He replaces Gbite Falade, who left the company in February to become the CEO of Niger Delta Petroleum, an oil producing company.

“Cliffe is a 1990/1991 session First Class graduate of Chemical/Petrochemical Engineering from the Rivers State University of Science and Technology who is widely recognized as a highly accomplished Oil & Gas industry executive”, Oilserv Limted says in a release.

Mr. Cliffe has his work cut out. This company is quite busy.

Oilserv was one of the two main contractors which constructed the Oben to Obiafu-Obrikom (OB-OB-OB) pipeline, currently in commissioning. It is, as we write, building half of the 614 kilometre long Ajaokuta Kaduna Kano (AKK) Gas Pipeline.

The company says of its new GCOO, effectively its No 2 man, after founder/ CEO Emeka Okwuosa: “Cliffe has exceptional leadership skills and esteemed international exposure”. Oilserv explains: “Throughout a career that spans over 29 years, Cliffe has garnered a reputation as an innovative, result-oriented visionary leader in the global Upstream Oil & Gas industry. In close to three decades in the industry he has held various roles that span four continents and 14 countries including prime energy markets such as the United States of America (Gulf of Mexico), United Kingdom (North Sea), Nigeria, Angola, Equatorial Guinea, Ghana, Congo, Gabon, Cameroun, Ivory Coast, Chad, Sao Tome and Yemen”.

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