Friday, March 03, 2006

Barry Morgan Helps Clear The Air Over JMC Blow-Up

In an article that happily relies on his rich list of sources in the African petroleum industry, Barry Morgan of UstreamOnline Thursday night revealed some of the key causes of the blow-up at the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Ministerial Council meeting in Abuja last week, and offers some fresh insights and fresh faces as food for thought between now and March 14, when the Production Sharing Contract for Block 4 is supposed to be signed.

In doing so, Morgan demonstrates that his mention of Block 4 last week with respect to Conoil was not a typo, as I thought. It turns out Chevron is talking to Conoil - not to ERHC, which is partnered with Addax Petroleum - about Conoil's 20 percent interest in Block 4, an equity position that could become 25 percent if a merger between Conoil and Godsonic goes through.

It turns out that Conoil boss Mike Adenuga thought a Joint Operating Agreement between the two could be completed after PSCs were signed, and that "due process" issue actually was the underlying cause of the failure of the signing ceremony on Feb. 24.
Morgan also hints of interest from British Petroleum, or BP, in Block 5. ERHC On The Move believes BP will ultimately play a major role in the Nigeria-DRSTP Jont Development Zone with ERHC Energy as a partner.

Nigeria and Sao Tome delay on Block 4 signing

By Upstream staff

NIGERIA and Sao Tome have once again failed to sign off the award of joint operatorship of Joint Development Zone Block 4 to Addax Petroleum and Houston minnow ERHC Energy, despite senior officials, including Nigerian Minister of State Edmund Daukoru, gathering to do so in Abuja, writes Barry Morgan.
The event was delayed until 14 March. "This does not send the right signal to investors it is not the way the oil business should be conducted," Daukoru said.

The blame game then swiftly subsided after it became evident that the Nigerian side had also contributed to the setback.

It was understood some gaps remained in the joint operating agreement since Nigerian independent Conoil, which has a 20% stake, had yet to finalise a proposed merger with Godsonic Oil&Gas with a 5% share and so Sao Tome could not be expected to approve a production sharing contract with blank spaces.

Godsonic's key Nigerian backer died in a plane crash last year, leaving loose ends that Conoil chief executive Mike Adenuga mistakenly assumed could be tied up after the state signatories had approved the PSC.

At the same time, Chevron is understood to have entered talks with Conoil to acquire the independent's stake in Block 4 in exchange for a commitment to develop Conoil's deep-water block OPL-257 in Nigeria's own waters and possiblly reimburse the $100 million signature bonus it paid to secure the licence.

Other arguments also emerged regarding the $18 million paid by Addax to farm in to ERHC's position on blocks 3 and 4 and whether this sum should rather be paid into Sao Tome's coffers as US advisers to the Sao Tome Attorney General urged, but this notion was dismissed by the Joint Development Authority as having no basis in law.

Meanwhile, Sinopec's memorandum of understanding to join ERHC as joint operator of Block 2 remains intact, while the Chinese giant has also shown an interest in Anadarko-operated Block 3.

In addition, Chevron is continuing to sniff out equity prospects in Block 2 and BP is said to be taking an interest in Block 5.

03 March 2006 00:01 GMT | last updated: 03 March 2006 00:01 GMT

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