Nigerian NNPC says taking over operatorship of oil blocks sold by Shell
Lagos (Platts)--24May2011/733 am EDT/1133 GMT
State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation Tuesday said it has
assumed the operatorship of the Niger Delta oil blocks from which Shell had
divested its interest, citing an existing agreement between the two companies.
Shell sold its 30% stake in three onshore oil blocks in 2009 and is also
in the process of completing divestment in four others, in which it operated
in partnership with Total, Eni and NNPC.
But NNPC said that by virtue of a clause in the joint operating
agreement it entered into with Shell, it automatically assumes the
operatorship of the blocks Shell had disposed off.
"Therefore prospective buyers should note that automatic operatorship
does not come with the acquisition of any of these relinquished blocks," NNPC
said in a statement.
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NNPC holds a 55% stake in the affected oil leases OMLs 4, 38 and 41
(already sold to Seplat Petroleum) as well as OMLs 30, 34, 40 and 42 put on
offer this year.
In April, Shell agreed a deal with Elcrest Exploration and Production,
the joint venture between Eland and Starcrest, to buy the 45% interest in OML
40 owned jointly with Total and Eni.
Shell is also concluding agreements with local firm Conoil Producing and
Polish/Nigerian consortium Neconde, to transfer its stakes in OMLs.
Industry analysts said the latest development over the Shell divestment
plan, might not be unconnected with NNPC's bid for its exploration and
production subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Co. to acquire the
assets, some of which hold over 300 million barrels of proven oil reserves,
without participating in the rigorous bidding process.
The NNPC knows that the NPDC cannot match the bids by companies seeking
the blocks, hence the decision to invoke the clause in the joint operating
agreement, one official said.
Bids for the largest block in the basket, OML 42 coveted by NNPC -- have
exceeded $1 billion, some sources said, all but leaving the cash-strapped