Libya Oil Industry Recovery: What It Means For The Rest Of Africa

By NJ Ayuk

If I called 2020 a terrible year for the oil industry, no one would take exception. Demand collapsed in the spring, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, and it has yet to recover fully. Prices then collapsed in April as OPEC and Russia walked away from production curbs and flooded the market with crude that no one wanted or needed, and once again, they have yet to regain all of the ground they have lost.

There have been a few bright spots, though. One of those is Libya, which has managed to overcome some very daunting challenges. I'd like to tell you the story of how that happened.

Starting Near Rock Bottom

When the African Energy Chamber (AEC) started drawing up our 2021 Africa Energy Outlook, which was released on Nov. 10, Libya's oil industry was still struggling in the face of persistent civil conflict.

At that time, the country was still producing less than 100,000 barrels per day (bpd) of crude, down from more than 900,000 bpd at the start of 2020. Its refineries, pipelines, and Mediterranean export terminals were almost entirely idle because of the blockade mounted by the Libyan National Army (LNA), a militia headed by Field Marshal Khalifa Haftar, during a major offensive campaign that began in mid-January.

As a result, most of its oil fields were also idle. The National Oil Corporation (NOC), which was determined to remain neutral in the conflict, made several attempts to lift force majeure declarations and recommence production over the summer, but without success.

These struggles are addressed in our 2021 forecast: "Libya struggles to maintain (its) sustainable oil production capacity (of) around 1 million bpd. In the latest ongoing struggle for power between GNA, an UN-recognized body (set up) to govern Libya, and LNA forces, (an) army of rebels led by General Khalifa Haftar (supported by Russia, Egypt, and UAE), force majeure has been imposed on oil exports in the country from January 2020. Due to this, currently, Libya's oil production has plummeted to almost 10% of its capacity."

Because of all these challenges, Libya has languished. It has had no way of monetizing its primary export commodity and source of cash. It has lost many billions of dollars. It hasn't even been able to extract or refine enough crude to cover domestic demand for fuel.

And it certainly hasn't succeeded in resolving the disputes over regional distribution of oil revenue that helped drive the LNA's attacks on the Government of National Accord (GNA), an interim government based in Tripoli and backed by the United Nations. Nor has Libya been able to find a way to rid tank farms and other oil infrastructure of the foreign soldiers and mercenaries deployed by Turkey and the other third parties with an interest in the country.

But things began to change in mid-September, when the LNA and its allies sat down with the GNA for yet another round of UN-brokered peace talks.

A Month of Progress

Initially, there didn't seem to be much reason for optimism. After all, the two sides had failed to come to terms so many times before!

This time, though, was different.

This time, the GNA and the LNA struck a deal.

They didn't go so far as to sign a peace agreement. Instead, they announced a one-month cease-fire deal on Sept. 18. The parties indicated they hoped to draw up a final agreement within the next month. They also made clear that Haftar had agreed to lift the oil blockade while the temporary deal remained in force.

Immediately after the cease-fire was declared, the NOC got right to work. It started bringing coastal terminals back online so that Libya could export oil again. Its regional production units began lifting force majeure declarations on one oil field after another. It started bringing refineries back into production. It started the process of inspecting infrastructure facilities to determine whether they were "safe" — that is, not occupied by foreign troops — and therefore eligible to resume regular business operations.

And by the time the one-month cease-fire expired on Oct. 18, the NOC had already managed to bring oil production back up to 500,000 bpd.

This was a huge achievement. Think of it! In just a few short weeks, Libya managed to increase output by more than 400,000 bpd, thereby regaining about half of the ground it lost as a result of the LNA blockade. And it did so despite the extensive damage inflicted on oil infrastructure during the blockade.

There was a problem, though.

Big Breakthroughs

When the cease-fire ended on Oct.18, the GNA and the LNA hadn't yet achieved their goal of signing a final agreement. Fortunately, though, they had agreed to extend talks for another six days. As a result, the LNA did not impose another blockade, and the NOC and its subsidiaries continued to put fields, pipelines, terminals, and refineries back into action.

Then on Oct. 23 — one day ahead of the new deadline —  there was another breakthrough during talks in Geneva.

On that day, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) declared that the parties had finalized a more comprehensive cease-fire agreement. It described the deal as permanent and applicable to the entire country.

What's more, the agreement also removed one of the biggest problems facing the Libyan oil industry — the challenge posed by the foreign soldiers and mercenaries still occupying oil fields and infrastructure facilities. According to Stephanie Williams, the UN's Acting Special Representative for Libya, the deal made provisions for all such troops to leave Libya within three months.

As a result, the NOC has been able to push forward with its campaign to restart the oil industry.

On Oct. 26, the company said in a statement that it was in a position to "(declare) the end of the blockades at all Libyan fields and ports."

Then on Nov. 9, it announced that it had brought production up to more than 1 million bpd. (To be exact, it reported that oil output had reached the level of 1,036,035 bpd.)

This is another huge achievement. Again, think of it! In less than two months, Libya has managed to go from producing just a fraction of its usual volume to more than 1 million bpd. It has pushed crude oil output up more than tenfold, bringing major fields such as Sharara and El Feel back into action. It has also succeeded in reactivating the export terminals on the Mediterranean coast and is working to ramp up processing operations at its refineries.

Challenges and Lessons

All of these successes make for a good story, don't they? Even better, the story is true.

(I'd like to think it also reflects well on the AEC, which did predict in our Africa Energy Outlook that Libyan crude oil production was set to recover as civil conflict simmered down.)

But is the story really over? Probably not.

First, we have to wait and see whether the cease-fire holds. All of the parties involved seem optimistic, but they haven't yet revealed whether they've managed to resolve quarrels about how to distribute oil revenues. The LNA, which controls most of southern and eastern Libya, has often claimed that the GNA, which holds the northwestern part of the country, keeps an unfairly large portion of these revenues for itself.

In turn, their conflict has negatively affected NOC, despite the company's attempts to remain neutral so that it could continue operating (and bringing in money) despite the civil conflict. Those challenges likely will continue if the question of oil revenue distribution isn't answered to the satisfaction of all concerned parties.

Next, if Libya does manage to hold together and keep output up, it will have to come to terms with OPEC, which is still working with Russia and other countries to support oil prices with a regime of production quotas. Libya hasn't been subject to those quotas this year because of the blockade, but it's now extracting more than 1 million bpd.

What's more, it expects to bring production up to 1.3 million bpd within the next few months, and Mustafa Sanalla, the head of the NOC, has said that Libya won't fall into line with the quota system until it can stabilize yields at 1.7 million bpd. OPEC may not agree with that proposition, especially since world crude prices have fallen in response to reports of renewed development activity in Libya.

Whatever the case, there are at least two lessons to be learned from Libya's recent victories.

One is persistence. Despite the repeated failure of attempts to work out an agreement between the LNA and the GNA, the UN and other parties did not give up. This should be a lesson for other African countries that count civil conflict as one of the obstacles to the development of oil and gas resources. Certainly, this approach appears to have benefited South Sudan, which has been embroiled in civil war for most of the time since it attained independence in 2011. The country has been under the rule of a unity government since the finalization of a peace agreement between President Salva Kiir Mayardit and his long-time rival Riek Machar Teny Dhurgon earlier this year.

The other is the necessity of paying attention to regional issues. The conflict between the GNA and the LNA wasn't just a battle for supremacy. It was also a quarrel over how best to distribute revenues between the central government and the regions that were home to most of the oil fields and other infrastructure that generated those revenues.

This is definitely one of the lessons that Nigeria has had to learn. The West African country's federal government has seen over and over again that the residents of oil-bearing regions such as Ogoniland are willing to fight if they believe they are being denied a fair share of the money that comes from the places where they make their homes.

Neither of these lessons is easy to absorb. It's easy to give up on negotiations when you've already failed repeatedly, and it's easy to ignore the periphery if you're one of the lucky people in the center. But I'd like to see other African producers think about them as they watch Libyan production continue to ramp up.

Turning Blind Eye To Human Rights Violations, Corruption Hurting Africa's Oil and Gas Industry

By NJ Ayuk

Nigeria has been attracting the world's attention in recent months for all the wrong reasons.

Nigerians have taken to the streets to protest police brutality after social media users spread accounts of an unarmed youth being shot and killed by a police officer with the Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS). The protests quickly grew, from their epicenter in Lagos, into a nationwide plea to end government corruption and widespread human rights abuses.

Violent police responses have only worsened the situation: At least 69 people have died across the country since protests began in October.

Calls to #EndSARS on Twitter and other social media streams are emboldening more and more citizens to demand government action. As Ayo Sogunro, a prominent Nigerian author and human rights lawyer put it, "People want some kind of systemic reform that would not just address police brutality in the present, but would also ensure that it is possible in the future."

Police brutality is not new, and SARS has been involved in countless other examples of human rights violations — but in the past, no one was held accountable for such incidents. Today, thanks to technology and social media, the problem cannot be ignored any longer. President Muhammadu Buhari has responded with promises to dissolve the special forces, and the world will be watching to see if he follows through.

Unfortunately, the violence on the streets of Nigeria only represents one example of human rights violations taking place across Africa, from mass displacements to abductions to terrorist attacks. At the same time, government failures to address these atrocities — along with systemic corruption in many countries at the local and national levels — impact millions of Africans.

These practices must come to an immediate halt, first and foremost because they are horribly wrong.

What's more, on top of the devastating impact that violence and corruption have on lives, on families, and on communities, they also jeopardize our opportunities to harness our natural resources to their full potential. In a free-market society, international energy companies will choose to operate elsewhere if corruption and human rights violations make a country too expensive and too risky for operations. That will result in missed opportunities that African countries cannot afford to lose. Opportunities to strategically harness our petroleum resources to grow our economies and bring about a better, safer quality of life for Africans. Opportunities to minimize energy poverty. And opportunities to lay a strong foundation for a successful energy transition.

To build a better future for Africans, we cannot be lackadaisical about addressing corruption, violence, and unacceptable treatment of men, women, and children. In addition to being wrong on every front, the devastation these activities cause today also rob Africans of a better future.

Five Million Euro Smear Advocacy, Hired Guns on Black Lives are not Human Rights and Anti-Corruption campaigners.

As a student at the University of Maryland, I was proud of my association with Amnesty international on campus and became a card carrying liberal. As the President of my law school's student government, I decided to go to Darfur, Sudan to work with the United Nations on Human Rights and rule of law issues. Human Rights are important, and we must defend our liberty and promote justice.

We must all have a commitment to good governance and ending corruption in our continent. We must also avoid using this issue to attack the integrity of hard-working Africans and their officials. The mere accusation of an African of corruption can be career ending in the energy sector and to my greatest dismay, western companies know it and they have no hesitation branding Africans as corrupt.

Last week, Centurion Law Group accepted to litigate against corrupt Spanish Police Commissioner now in Jail, Jose Manuel Villarejo whom according to the Spanish government and its prosecutors, solicited and received 5 000 000 euros to spy, manufacture, photoshop and push for a smear campaign against Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, his teenage children, and many African businesses.

The corrupt Jose Villarejo hired Delfin Mocache Massoko the founder of Equatorial Guinea's blog Diaro Rombe, both with a history of anti-Semitism, set up on Joint venture for their smear campaign. These two twins of deception in search for credibility, then hired OCCRP with a clear intent of publishing the fruits from a poisonous tree into mainstream outlets like Le Monde in France and El Pais in Spain. We can do better this. Too many black lives at risk for these kind of games and it will be interesting to know how much each of these parties received from Jose Villarejo Diaro Rombe Joint Venture.

If you talk about Human Rights and corruption, then you make the poster boy of your campaign a serial plagiarizer Delfin Mocache Massoko and a convicted corrupt cop Jose Villarejo that manufactures evidence, how can anyone trust the fruits of a poisonous tree. This corrupt cop Jose Villarejo has done an amazing job in convincing everyone in Spain as the government indictment claims that he is a lying, perjuring, genocidal racist, and he has testified willfully false in many cases against black and Jewish officials, black and Jewish businesses, black immigrants, and high ranking officials.

I want to apologize to Africans, jews and the people of Equatorial Guinea for the actions for Mr Delfin Mocache Massoko. His ego, anti-Semitism and love for money betrays our African spirit of Ubuntu. To team up with Jose Villarejo in his spy expedition against Mr Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima is outlandish, unfortunate and unwarranted. This is not the human rights activism we deserve and certainly not the corruption advocates that we want.

We Cannot Continue This Lose-Lose Cycle

In many cases, human rights violations and Africa's ongoing struggle with systemic corruption go hand-in-hand. I agree with the managing director of the Institute for Security Studies in South Africa, Anton du Plessis, who has written that corruption is the most neglected human rights violation of our time.

"It fuels injustice, inequality and depravation, and is a major catalyst for migration and terrorism," du Plessis wrote in 2016. "In Africa, the social and political consequences of corruption rob nations of resources and potential, and drive inequality, resentment and radicalization."

In fact, the UN Economic Commission for Africa has reported that the continent loses $50 billion a year to illicit financial outflows.

As du Plessis wrote, "Corruption discourages donors and destroys investor confidence, strangling development, progress and prosperity."

And it makes it all the harder for African countries to create a better future for their people.

Staying Competitive in a New Post-Pandemic Reality

When Standard Chartered surveyed American and European CFOs and other senior finance leaders earlier this year about potential growth markets to enter, only 13% listed Africa as one of their top three choices, and a measly 2% said Africa was their first choice.

As Standard Chartered Vice Chairman, Americas, Jeremy Amias noted in an opinion piece about the survey, the vast natural resources in Africa and abundant natural resources tend to be overshadowed by concerns about instability — at least in the eyes of foreign companies and investors.

"Africa also has a reputation as somewhere it is difficult to do business – indeed, only two African markets, Mauritius and Rwanda, currently feature in the Top 50 in the World Bank's 2020 Ease of Doing Business rankings (although it is worth recognising that no Latin American nations feature in this group at all)," Amias wrote.

This is a particularly bad time to be perceived as an overly risky environment. If we want international oil companies to continue operating and investing in Africa — and we do — we need to consider their unique challenges and motivations.

COVID-19 has caused a dramatic plunge in demand for energy. As a result, many producers worldwide are feeling the hurt. When the pandemic-induced crash in demand, coupled with the Saudi-Russian price war, pushed us into "negative oil" territory this past spring — with producers essentially paying buyers to take oil off their hands —a number of multinational oil and gas companies began struggling to stay in business. Capital expenditures plummeted. Exploration projects went on hold. Months later, the industry is still in survival mode. And when companies do resume exploration and production operations, they're going to be looking for locations where they stand to make a profit. They'll seek out countries that do not pose unreasonable risks and where their investments will not make them complicit in human rights violations. It's up to us to ensure that companies find what they're looking for in Africa. The recovery of the continent's oil and gas sector requires the full cooperation of government and industry stakeholders to work together on lasting and impactful reform.

Strong, straightforward leadership must establish and enforce legislation that protects human rights.

We recently made progress on that front when the African Union established the African Court on Human and People's Rights, which adds an enforcement arm to the continent's human rights institutions. But there is still a great deal of work to do. As Halidou Ouédraogo, head of the Union Interafricaine des Droits de l'Homme (UIDH), a network of non-governmental human rights organizations in 50 African countries, told African Renewal Magazine, African judges are often reluctant (or unable) to rule against their governments. The judges may depend on ruling parties for their positions — and in some cases, face arrest or assault for challenging their government's actions. If judges face those obstacles, imagine how difficult it is for citizens, or even communities, to speak up or seek justice.

We must continue working to protect — and empower — Africans. And we can find examples to follow. Namibia, for instance, has an ombudsman's office authorized to investigate human rights complaints. It is not perfect, and far too many Namibians remain unaware of their rights or lack the financial means to pursue justice in court. But it is encouraging to see Namibia's non-governmental Legal Assistance Centre working to address this through awareness programs and volunteer efforts to expand public access to the courts.

Your People Are Watching

At the same time, African governments must strive to be transparent and work to end corruption in all forms, from the exploitation of workers to bribery to fraud. The more transparent a country's government is, the more attractive the country is to international oil companies. Investors are drawn to the security and stability that comes with such transparency. Countries governed transparently are typically less prone to violence and corruption, as leaders are beholden to the people who can see whether their actions and their words align.

Transparency reform also must include the extractives sector and oil money management. African governments should follow guidance from groups such as the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative to establish best practices. Ultimately, a country's natural resources belong to its citizens. Candidly showing how revenues make their way through the government and how they benefit the public goes a long way in fostering trust and acceptance of the operators. Rather than being wary and disdainful, an informed citizenry is more apt to support its leadership. Instead of feeling defensive and protective, a community is more likely to welcome drilling operations when it believes it, too, will ultimately benefit from the success of the extractions.

Ultimately, we must achieve what #EndSARS protestors in Nigeria are asking for — but on a much larger scale. African leaders must implement reforms that not only address human rights violations and corruption, but also ensure that they are not possible in the future.

Only then can we protect our people and communities. And only then will we be in a position to fully reap the benefits of a strategically managed oil and gas industry.

LNG Expected To Prevent Massive Jobs Destruction In The Short-Term

Despite the profound crises of 2020 which have jeopardized hundreds of thousands of jobs across Africa, the African Energy Chamber expects employment to remain strong thanks to ongoing capital projects sanctioned since 2018, especially LNG ventures.

Inflexible capital programs will indeed assist in sustaining the overall employment throughout 2020 and 2021. As a result, the Chamber does not see big immediate impact from COVID-19 in 2020 and 2021 on job numbers as the initiated capital programs in 2018 and 2019 are ongoing and ramping up activity.

This is particularly the case for Total's mega greenfield Mozambique LNG project in Mozambique requiring north of 10 000 employees to set up two liquefaction trains with a combined export capacity of 12.88 mtpa. But additional projects, such as Eni's 3.4 mtpa Coral Sul FLNG project, also in Mozambique, or BP's 2.45 Greater Tortue Ahmeyim (GTA) LNG project in Mauritania and Senegal will also contribute to maintaining employment rates in the short term.

The same applies in Nigeria with the NLNGSevenPlus project, sanctioned by Nigeria LNG Ltd before the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Towards 2025 however, the numbers of jobs are expected to decline again on the back of new projects in 2020 and 2021 not being sanctioned due to COVID-19. Major new ventures were indeed expected to be sanctioned this year and create thousands of jobs, including Ghana's Pecan Field Development by Aker Energy or ExxonMobil's 15.2 mtpa Rovuma LNG project in Mozambique.

As a result of their delays, the impact of the current crisis on jobs creation and employment in Africa is expected to be more severe in a few years than it is currently unless immediate measures are taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic and restore investors confidence.

The African Energy Chamber notably notes that Jobs creation will continue to have the greatest potential if Africa can harness its natural gas and downstream industrial potential by transforming and monetizing its resources at home.

Put simply, strong policies need to be put in place so that local capacities increase and are supported by strong industrialisation and local transformation of resources, including through refining, petrochemicals, fertilizers, cement or power production.

The 2021 Outlook notably calls for increased regionalisation of African energy markets, and stronger efforts from regulators to promote an enabling environment for local and international investors. 

Hundreds of thousands of African jobs are on the line and risk being lost unless bold measures are taken to ensure regulatory certainty, adopt better fiscal reforms and render the sector competitive for entrepreneurs and investors. 

COVID-19: Biggest Shock In History Of Oil & Gas Sector

2020 has likely challenged the industry unlike any year in its history. A relatively stable growth in liquids demand has indeed been observed over the last 20 years. Even during the financial meltdown in 2008 and 2009, the demand overall was very resilient. In 2020 however, demand is currently expected to be about 10 million barrels of liquids less per day than pre-COVID-19 expectations.

Intra year, this difference is even more extreme as the brunt of this reduction occurred during the widespread lockdown in the second quarter to halt the coronavirus outbreak.

Such a dramatic change to demand created shockwaves into the markets by putting enormous negative pressure on prices. Most notably, the West Texas Intermediary reference price even ended up trading at negative levels as there simply was no ability to store more oil. The market forces therefore led to widespread production shut ins in North America as well as an OPEC agreement to cut production by about 10 million barrels per day.

As such, the oil markets have now rebalanced but with significant available capacity offline. COVID-19 has triggered a big short-term negative revision in oil price expectation while the mid to long term outlook still points to an oil price at least north of $50/bbl based on the assumption that a solution will be found to the current COVID-19 pandemic, pushing global economic activity towards pre-COVID-19 levels. As a consequence of less revenue, the various operators in the world have also slashed their investment outlooks considerably. The combined reduction for 2020 to 2025 in expected global upstream CAPEX is of $690 billion compared to the initial expectation in February 2020 before COVID-19 was declared a pandemic. The reduction is front loaded implying that it is 2020 and 2021 where one should expect to see the biggest changes with almost 30 percent lower spend than pre-COVID-19 expectations.

This is an excerpt taken from the Africa Energy Outlook 2021. Read the full article by visiting https://EnergyChamber.org/ to download the full report. Engage with us on our social media platforms using #ChamberNews #ChamberEnergyOutlook2021.

Total's 2nd Discovery In South Africa Promises Regional Gas-led Recovery

While anticipated, Total's second significant gas condensate discovery announced today in South Africa is nonetheless reason to rejoice after a year of deep uncertainty and struggles for the African energy sector. With partners Qatar Petroleum, CNR International and Africa Energy Corp, Total was able to start its multi-well exploration programme on Block 11B/12B only two months behind schedule, delivering what remains until now the year's only discovery across sub-Saharan Africa.

The Luiperd-1X well was drilled to a total depth of 3,400 meters and encountered 73 meters of net gas condensate pay within the Paddavissie Fairway, which already includes the 2019 Brulpadda discovery. This second find confirms the tremendous gas potential in South Africa and is expected to be followed by the drilling of a third, a potential fourth, exploration wells on the same block.

More importantly, the discovery further positions Africa as a global and competitive gas frontier that continues to offer very attractive exploration and gas commercialisation opportunities. The upcoming Africa Energy Outlook 2021 of the African Energy Chamber identifies several such high-impact wells for 2021 and 2022 that could yield similar discoveries in South Africa and Namibia. The outlook notably identifies the southwestern coast of Africa as being home to perhaps the most anticipated wildcats globally. The prospects, if successful, could open new basins for development and trigger big new investments towards the latter half of the 2020s.

Under its 2021 projections to be released in November, the Chamber notably sees gas production and consumption increasing on the continent. More specifically, new frontiers such as South Africa are expected to increasingly consume natural gas for industrial purposes and power generation.  Such developments could be a pillar for economic recovery post Covid-19, but would require the promotion of an enabling environment providing investors with sound and attractive policy and contractual frameworks.

"The African Energy Chamber has always seen Africa as a true frontier for exploration and promoted a much bigger use of gas across our economies to create jobs and support industrialisation. The gradual opening of a new domestic gas hub in South Africa is a very welcoming development that needs to be supported with efficient and transparent policies, and quick approvals of all necessary permits and licenses for gas to be commercialised and create value for South Africans," declared Nj Ayuk, Executive Chairman at the African Energy Chamber.

GE Awarded Substation Contract In Benin, West Africa

Contract totaling US$47 million awarded to GE Renewable Energy's Grid Solutions business through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC); Installation of four substations and seven extensions strengthens electricity supply security in Benin, while additional energy capacity helps foster economic development and growth; Project builds on Grid's commitment to the continent to help drive local economies.

GE Renewable Energy's Grid Solutions business (NYSE:GE) has been awarded a contract of US$47 million for a substation project in Benin.

The nation's biggest high-voltage substation contract has been awarded through the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) - a United States foreign assistance agency established by the US Congress. This is a critical grid project as only one-third of Benin's population has access to electricity, and total per-capita consumption is low due to limited access and availability. At the same time, rapidly growing demand for power, inadequate maintenance, and insufficient investment has stressed Benin's national electrical grid, creating power outages that hurt businesses and hinder social services.

Under the contract, GE will supply four substations, including gas-insulated switchgear (GIS) and seven substation extensions. The scope covers the most important high-voltage substation in the country, Vedoko, and is strategically placed to help strengthen the country's transmission backbone. GE will also work on upgrading the substations in Maria-Gleta, Berecingou, Djougou, Bohicon, Natitingou and Parakou.

"In recent years in Benin, there has been a lot of attention and investment in the country's energy arena. The distribution of electricity to its citizens is a critical enabler to helping make dreams come true, to supporting their aspirations as they take on the challenges of daily modern life," said Gabriel Degbegni, National Coordinator at the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC).

This is the second contract GE's Grid Solutions has received through MCC's $375 million power-sector focused agreement, or compact, with Benin. The first contract, a turnkey distribution management system project involving telecommunication infrastructure and substation adaptations, was awarded in 2018 and is currently being executed.

That project was designed to strengthen the country's grid and manage electricity losses that result during energy transmission, since Benin imports some of its electricity from neighboring countries. The new substations that GE will install as part of the latest project will be integrated into the distribution management system.

Both GE projects improve grid reliability, allowing additional energy capacity supply to support growth, boost productivity and generate more economic opportunities.

GE will provide a turnkey solution with design supply, civil work, local transportation and installation commissioning as part of the latest project. The supply includes all balance-of-plant and high-voltage substation equipment, GIS, power transformers, circuit breakers, disconnectors and earthing switches, instrument transformers, capacitors, and control and protection services. The entire project is expected to be completed in early 2022.

"Energy is a key component for on-going development in Africa," said Eric Amoussouga, CEO GE SSA Francophone at GE's Grid Solutions. "We are honored to be awarded this critical grid project in Benin, supporting the country's modernization efforts around its power sector. Moreover, additional energy capacity will help foster economic development and boost local area growth."

Helping to build African economies

GE's Grid Solutions will set up an office in Benin to provide training and skills through a local team. The local team will be hired via subcontractors to directly impact the economy.

The project builds on Grid's continued commitment to Africa, where the business is also upgrading three 225 kV substations in Cote d'Ivoire. Announced last year, that project aligns with GE's commitment to provide scalable power solutions in partnership with governments and utilities to meet West Africa's growing energy needs.

German Investors Target Mozambique LNG, Gas Projects

Germany's economic commitment to Mozambique will further be strengthened as the Germany Africa Business Forum embarks on a three-day trade mission to encourage, promote, and facilitate trade and investment between German businesses and a growing Mozambican economy.

German investors will visit Mozambique during the Mozambique Gas & Power (MGP) 2021 Conference & Exhibition taking place on March 8-9, 2021, an incredible opportunity organised by Africa Oil & Power (AOP) in partnership with Mozambique's Ministry of Mineral Resources and Energy (MIREME) and the Government of Mozambique.

The GABF further congratulates H.E. Filipe Nyusi, President of Mozambique for his selection as Africa "Person of the Year" for 2020. "Thanks to the leadership of His Excellency President Nyusi, Mozambique is on the verge of becoming an international player in the global energy market, and the GABF calls on German investment and technology to play a part in this transformation", stated Sebastian Wagner, Executive Chair of the GABF.

The investor mission provides German investors an opportunity to engage with key Mozambican businesses and political stakeholders. The goal of the investment roadshow is to deepen German-Mozambican relationships in light of Mozambique's recent discovery of substantial natural gas fields, largely considered a game-changer for the country and its people. Natural gas in its liquefied form (LNG) is a clean and safe fuel that is growing in global significance, as world energy demand increases in a lower-carbon context.

The German energy sector continues to be among the most innovative sectors of the European economy. German businesses understand that they need to play a strong and competitive role in Africa to ensure a cleaner and stronger Germany.

"Mozambique is a great opportunity for German businesses to invest in gas monetization projects, petrochemicals, power projects, industrialization and immediate diversification of the economy that leads to jobs for the people of Mozambique and Germans alike", added Wagner.

Mozambique offers German companies many untapped opportunities to adapt and create new business models that are inclusive of and responsive to the tremendous opportunities and potential that exists in Mozambique.

The platform, created by the government of H.E. Filipe Nyusi and the Africa Oil and Power team to bring investment into Mozambique, is a step in the right direction. The GABF will be hosting the Germany-Mozambique roundtable and related discussions during the event, and will announce several investment agreements.

Mozambique is going to play a strong role in driving energy security and global peace, and will empower young people. When Germany exports goods and services to Mozambique or invests in its booming LNG markets, Germany must see this as a long-term engagement with Mozambique.

"Germany has had strong relations with Mozambique since independence. Many Mozambicans studied and lived in Germany, and Germany has provided wide-ranging support to support peace and reconciliation in Mozambique. Economic empowerment has to be our next goal, and now is the time," concluded Wagner.

Russia, Equatorial Guinea Tee Off Geological Mapping Project

Last week marked an important step in the energy cooperation between Equatorial Guinea and Russia, as the first team of Russia's state-owned joint stock company Rosgeo arrived in Equatorial Guinea to kick off a historic geological mapping project.

The initiative has been in the making for some time, and follows the signing of Memorandum of Understanding during the Russia-Africa Summit in Sochi in 2019 between Rosgeo and the Ministry of Mines and Hydrocarbons (MMH). It was followed by the signing of two firm services contracts in May 2020 with JSC Zarubezhgeologia and JSC Yuzhmorgeologia, internationally operating subsidiaries of Rosgeo, for the initial phase of seismic acquisition in transit zone and state geological mapping in the Rio Muni area in mainland Equatorial Guinea.

As a result, JSC Zarubezhgeologia will be performing scouting works for state geological mapping, and JSC Yuzhmorgeologia will be performing scouting works for complex seismic acquisition in the transit zone of Rio Muni. The activities are notably aimed at analyzing landscape conditions for geological surveying and prospecting, determining the scope of mapping drilling, researching the possibility of mineralogical sampling of channel deposits, analyzing technical conditions for the arrangement of geological camp in Rio Muni, and other scouting necessary to prepare for next phases of exploration works. 

Equally important, the program marks the re-entry of Rosgeo into Equatorial Guinea following successful operations of its subsidiary JSC Zarubezhgeologia back in the 1970s. when its activities formed the basis for Equatorial Guinea's geological exploration industry.

"This is a historic momen for Equatorial Guinea as we welcome once again long-standing partners of our country to explore onshore Río Muni. We expect this region of Equatorial Guinea to become a new natural resources hub both for onshore oil & gas operations but also for mining and minerals. Upcoming exploration activities will provide the foundation for this next phase of growth in our industry, and having Rosgeo on the ground gives us confidence and faith for a successful exploration campaign," declared H.E. Gabriel Mbaga Obiang Lima, Minister of Mines and Hydrocarbons.

The Rio Muni area is believed to be one of the most promising exploration frontiers in Equatorial Guinea, which could turn the country once again into a hotspot for natural resources exploration. Increased exploration is expected not only to help in sustaining and increasing domestic output of oil and gas, but also in proving additional reserves in key minerals to help Equatorial Guinea further diversify its economy.

Data Emerges As Crucial Component Of Post-COVID-19 Oil Industry Recovery

The 'Leveraging the Power of Technology for Oilfield Optimization' webinar was organized by Microsoft in partnership with Africa Oil & Power and the African Energy Chamber; Lower production costs are paramount to a revamped global oil sector with technology to spearhead cost reductions; The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated technology adoption as an integral component of oil and gas projects.

During a webinar organized by Microsoft and Africa Oil & Power under the theme 'Leveraging the Power of Technology for Oilfield Optimization' on Tuesday, panelists examined how digital applications are capable of uniting real-time data with advanced analytics to improve decision-making and boost efficiency and sustainability. As oil and gas companies continue to face threats to efficiency, sustainability and profitability, digitalization and optimization of oilfield assets have emerged as principal cost-cutting mechanisms in the wake of the COVID-19 era.

According to Vaseem Khan, Global VP Digital, Analytics and Innovation and Chief Innovation Officer, McDermott, Africa has the opportunity to leapfrog traditional oil and gas operations thanks to technology.

"Technology is an enabler for sub-Saharan Africa to become more competitive and become one of the most prominent producing area globally," he said.

Multi Cloud Specialist at Microsoft, Dizando Norton, presented to the large virtual audience Microsoft's initiatives to boost technology adoption in the oil and gas industry while lowering carbon emissions footprint in line with Paris Climate Agreement. "By 2030, Microsoft will be carbon negative, reducing emissions by more than half. By 2050, Microsoft will remove all the carbon the company has produced since its founding in 1975," he noted.

Microsoft is collaborating with Chevron and Schlumberger to deploy optimized technology-based processes looking to accelerate data analyzing, thus triggering new exploration opportunities and speed up time to first oil.

According to Norton, there are a number of transformative projects currently taking place in the eastern and southern Africa energy space. "These projects are supported namely by Microsoft's enabling cloud services allowing customers to increase efficiency while reducing operational costs."

Looking at the perceived high cost of entry to technology, Dr Babajide Agunbiade, Business Development Director at National Oilwell Varco believes the long-term vision is a crucial aspect of technology deployment. "Customers need to move away from the short-term financial aspect and look at the entire lifecycle of the project which can have up to a 30-year lifespan."

Vaseem Khan further stated that "technology is becoming cheaper and more accessible. The cost of deploying technology is now a minor expenditure in the project. Technology is the most efficient when looked at as an integral part of the project. Implementing a holistic vision will allow decision-makers to implement technology in a stable and rational way, with immense rewards down the way."

Osama Hanna, WW Energy Industry Core Team / Industry Digital Strategist at Microsoft gave the example of a project he led with an industry stakeholder regarding well corrosion. Following a government regulation regarding well maintenance, Microsoft implemented a real-time monitoring solution to proactively detect corrosion, ultimately reducing corrosion by up to 46%, thus avoiding a potential "plug & abandon" down the road.

Finally, the panel touched upon the role of technology in a post-COVID environment. According to Vaseem Khan, "COVID-19 has acted as a technology accelerator. Technology adoption has dramatically increased during the pandemic. It has allowed many projects to continue or resume faster and has shown many operators than remote work is an efficient way to maintain operations while lowering costs. The new normal is to use technology in order to deliver projects efficiently, in a cheaper manner. Technology is not an option for the future, it's necessary at the present."

Dr. Agunbiade stressed the importance of lowering costs thanks to technology in a context of long-term lower demand for oil: "COVID-19 has brought peak oil closer. Demand for oil is set to decrease continuously from here. This situation stresses the importance of lower costs in all aspects of the petroleum business: material selection, improved research and development, remote work. All these crucial topics can and must be supported by technology."

On a final note, Osama Hanna highlighted efficiency as the central topic for the post-COVID era. "Looking forward, efficiency will be a key challenge for all operators in the petroleum space. The price of a barrel is decided by the market, but companies can have an impact of their operational expenditure by optimizing efficiency across the value chain, whether we speak about human resources, equipment, technology and so on."

International Geophysical & Dilling Contractors Eye Africa Exploration Opportunities

The oil and gas industry globally is currently going through a period of transition, during which the industry is re-adjusting itself to operate in a post COVID-19 environment with oil prices likely to stabilise between USD 35-50 Barrels per day. Despite these challenges, drilling activity in Africa according to African Energy Chamber projections is expected to drop in 2021 only slightly from projected 2020 levels.

A total number of 800 wells are expected to be drilled this year, with that number expected to drop only slightly below 800 in 2021. These numbers, however, represent a drop of over 25 percent compared to 2019.

Similarly, capital expenditure is also expected to reduce by over 25% between 2019 and 2021. An estimated USD 28 Billion is expected to be spent on upstream capital expenditure projects in 2021, with over USD 10 billion of that dedicated to field development projects. This continues to present significant opportunities for companies involved in the upstream value chain like drilling and geophysical contractors.

"Those service providers, that are able to adapt to the new market conditions by implementing effective cost control solutions and streamlining processes, especially with the help of technology will thrive and grow at the expense of those companies that are slow to adapt to the new market realities," said Verner Ayukegba SVP at the African Energy Chamber.

"The AEC position in Angola has not changed: we continue to see opportunities in Angola and believe it's important to shine a light on these and bring industry players from across the globe to exploit these as we face this challenging situation together, and overcome. Angola's oil and gas industry is a well-developed one, but it's absolutely clear that we will need to always innovate and collaborate in order to remain relevant for the years to come.

Our key role at the African Energy Chamber is to be the voice of the African energy industry and this is a prime example of how we do that. It's a unique chance to make connections and hear more about the landscape of the African energy sector." Concluded Sergio Pugliese, Angola President for the African Energy Chamber

The International Association of Geophysical Contractors (IAGC) and the International Association of Drilling Contractors (IADC) representatives on the panel will talk about emerging industry trends, technological developments in the industry, new standards and regulations that affect their members and possible changes in legislation that are likely to affect their members and the industry.

The panel also contains experienced professionals who will enrich the discussions with on the ground experiences on how they are steering their companies to take advantage of existing opportunities in the African oil and gas sector and what plans they have going forward.

As many African countries continue to bend over backwards to encourage exploration and drilling, especially of new licenses, what other concessions are companies looking for, to take up new exploration activity? Nigeria for example is currently going through a marginal field bidding round, which will lead to the award of numerous licenses in 2021. What incentives need to be availed, to the new license holders, to enable them to deploy exploration capital in the quickest and most effective manner possible?

Finally, the webinar will also examine how Africa currently compares to other oil and gas producing regions and what African countries need to do to develop and grow their competitive edge vis-a-vis other oil and gas producing regions globally.

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