By the Editorial Board of Africa Oil+Gas Report
For close to 50 years, the company formerly known as Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC) has functioned essentially in two key areas of the petroleum industry.
The first is upstream crude oil and natural gas operations.
The second comprises services, midstream, and downstream activity.
A close examination of the performance of this state-owned entity, in these sectors, in those decades, provides us a handy guide to determine the merit of the recent calls for its outright privatization.
In the 49 years since Nigeria inaugurated the Joint Venture scheme between NNPC and multinational companies, six (6) international majors, have effectively produced all of Nigeria’s crude oil and gas output.
These multinationals have been self-regulating, with high standards of efficiency, governance, and application of technology, that, in spite of NNPC, they planned and executed programmes for national production, which grew to a peak of 2.531Barrels per day (crude oil and condensate) in 2010, according to the BP Review of Statistics, an industry bible of production data. It was easy for NNPC, the 57% (average) equity holder of the JVs, to take credit for these numbers.
Now the multinationals have, since 2012, been steadily implementing a withdrawal and are being replaced by Nigerian independents who do not have the same standards, efficiency, governance, and application of technology.
In the same hydrocarbon patch in which these six multinationals could collectively produce 2.5Million Barrels per day, there are now over 30 producing companies, “superintended” by NNPC, collectively struggling to deliver 1.3Million Barrels per day (crude oil and condensates), with heavy sweating. It’s not a challenge of geology, we aver, but above-surface issues.
Throughout what is now known as the golden era of Nigerian crude production, NNPC’s main contribution has been the long, dispiriting stretch of contracting cycles and delayed cash call payments.
Now the NNPC has grown larger in terms of asset footprint, with more acreages handed to them in those last 10 years; the same decade in which the multinationals have retreated and Nigerian production has shriveled.
Eighty-eight percent (88%) of the fiscal contribution of oil and gas to the Nigerian treasury comes from rent: taxes and royalties and only 12% come from revenues accruing to NNPC from its equity in the Joint Ventures as well as share in Petroleum Sharing Contracts. NNPC’s whopping 57% of the main oil and gas producing projects translates to only 12% of the total contributions of oil and gas to the treasury. What this means in simple terms is this. If we assume that Nigeria is producing 2.5 Million barrels per day today, then NNPC’s entitlement will be 1.425Million barrels per day. This volume is what is the Federation volume. It is the one whose proceeds are always consistently underperforming. It is the one that Ahmed El Rufai, governor of the Nigerian northwestern state of Kaduna, alleges, never reaches the Federation account. It is this NNPC equity entitlement, that we aver, contributes just 12% of the total contributions of oil and gas to the treasury, at the best of times.
The bulk of contribution to the National Treasury from oil and gas comes from the petroleum profit tax (now hydrocarbon tax) and royalties that are paid by Shell, Chevron, TOTAL, ExxonMobil, ENI, Seplat, NDEP, NDWestern, AITEO, Newcross, Amni, Elcrest, First Hydrocarbon Nigeria, Midwestern, Lekoil, First E&P, Conoil, Green Energy, Energia, Waltersmith, Platform, Britannia U, Savannah Energy, Sahara Energy, Oando, Shoreline, Neconde, Heirs Holdings, Oriental Resources, Eroton, NNPC itself and several others.
And there is another point we have to make here. It is its “senior” position in the JVs and its management of the PSCs that has provided NNPC the opportunity to wreak so much havoc (Poor cash call remittances, long contracting cycles, bullying service companies into partnerships with NNPC owned service companies and then insisting the contracts for oilfield service be awarded to those partnerships).
If NNPC was holding a zero percent interest in these JVs, the national purse will feel a more positive impact.
This is why the Africa Oil+Gas Report has always made the argument for the reduction of NNPC equity in the JVs.
The clearest example of the need for NNPC to be less than a 50% shareholder in Nigeria’s oil and gas projects is the Nigeria Liquefied Natural Gas (NLNG) Ltd. Its an incorporated joint venture of NNPC with three European majors (UK’s Shell, France’s TOTAL and Italy’s ENI) in which NNPC has 49% equity. That less than 50% NNPC equity allows these companies a breather to run one of the most profitable hydrocarbon operations (no cash call (payables) issues, no approval challenges for projects, no bullying), with billions of dollars guaranteed as dividends meant for the National Treasury.
Apart from JVs and Production Sharing Agreements in oil and gas production, the NNPC has an extensive network of subsidiaries, some of them service companies, some of them midstream companies, some are in transportation and some are in marketing.
The NNPC runs refineries. It has depots and pipelines for petroleum product storage and distribution.
It has a seismic acquisition and seismic data processing subsidiary chrsitened Integrated Data Services Limited (IDSL); it has an engineering company named NETCO. It has a crude oil marketing division for marketing the Federation crude.
The refineries have not performed above 25% of their capacity since 1997, which is 25 years ago. NNPC’s bungling of its mandate to refine-the Nigerian- crude is one of the most brazen acts of de-industrialisation of the Nigerian economy by any state-owned enterprise.
NNPC, the one-time corporation, now a Limited Liability Company, had three petrochemical plants, each in Warri, Port Harcourt, and Kaduna. The one in Port Harcourt was built as a stand-alone from the refinery. The Warri and Kaduna Petrochemical plants are located inside the refineries.
Nigeria took the bold step to privatize the Port Harcourt Petrochemical plant, named Eleme Petrochemicals. It has been so successful that the 10% equity of it that is owned by the Rivers State Government is probably the state’s largest investment.
The petrochemical plants that remain in NNPC’s control are shabby; they have not sold a bag of petrochemicals for 30 years.
Let us go to crude oil marketing.
Every large oil producer, even lowly Angola, sells its crude oil directly on its own through its state hydrocarbon company.
NNPC is the only such state company that does not market its crude. It has to allocate to companies who line up every year waiting for an arbitrage opportunity. Nigeria is the only place where you have to allocate crude oil to middlemen to sell.
Even Duke Oil, the NNPC’s crude marketing subsidiary, doesn’t sell directly. It markets through other entities.
The data acquisition and processing company, IDSL and the engineering firm, NETCO, each forms partnership with the competition. By using the weight of the NNPC, they get the contracts that oil companies would have awarded directly to their competition and hand over the work to the competition to do. IDSL, on its own, does not process a single kilometre of seismic data.
NPDC has been delinquent in paying taxes and royalties on most of the assets in which it is 55% or 60% joint venture partner to private producing companies. Most of these assets were assigned to them by NNPC: NNPC novated its equity in several joint ventures to NPDC, but the latter has never paid the equivalent market price for those assets.
NNPC’s Petroleum distribution is probably the most inefficient of all its operations. The petroleum product pipeline system is supposed to ensure the minimal presence of tankers on Nigerian roads. The failure of that system is the reason for some of the most fatal traffic accidents across the breadth of the country.
If NNPC is scrapped today, what will the Federation account lose?
But that’s already a stretch of the argument.
This editorial is part of the Public Service contribution of the Africa Oil+Gas Report.