Oil Search In Chad Basin: Buhari’s Order To NNPC And Matters Arising? By Ifeanyi Izeze
To say that the position of this government on several issues is getting more and more worrisome by the day is an understatement. How do you reconcile that in a country where there is no money (as we were told) to pay workers salaries or to alleviate the suffering of the masses majority of whom cannot even eat once in a day, we are talking of spending billions of naira (either already earmarked or to be raised) on finding oil by force in the north?
For a country that is in an economic crisis largely because of its dependence on oil, and given the public push for a drastic upscale of diminutive non-oil sectors of the economy, how is the pursuit of oil in the north now our national priority? When are we going to begin to think differently? Is it not this same government that boasts every day that they want to diversify the economy from oil that now is busy plotting to drain billions on wildcatting which is nothing but outright kalo kalo (gambling)?
It is really curious that President Mohammadu Buhari actually ordered the NNPC to embark on this venture but it’s even more curious that the new NNPC group managing director, Maikanti Baru, could be insensitive enough to be dangling the president’s name in a statement that is most likely to portray him as sectionally -minded. Could it have carried lesser weight if the NNPC boss had hinged the decision to recommence oil search in the north on his corporation rather than dangling the name of the president? It is very unfortunate that in this country, intellectuals who should be better-informed regress to technical and economic apostasy just to satisfy the whims and caprices of their bosses (politicians) in Government?
The Chad Basin has been repeatedly prospected for oil for well over three decades at great cost to the NNPC and in turn the country. No oil was ever found in viable or commercial quantities. Political search for oil will never find a single drop of producible oil in those Basins. Just mark my word! It will only end up wasting scarce and highly needed funds which we should be deploying in other sectors to strengthen our economy, especially that of the northeast region and enable our people stand gainfully engaged rather sitting and waiting for doles.
If the aim of this proposal is to leverage on developing the northeast region as feigned by our leaders, why is the government not focusing on leveraging Renewable Energy, Manufacturing and Agriculture in the region? These sectors are much more sustainable and capable of creating shared development and a rapid one too rather than the wild goose chase for oil in our present economic circumstance.
As disclosed by experts, with an average solar irradiation of 2,400 kWh/m2, the Northeast (Chad Basin) region is one of the areas in the world best primed for investment in Solar power which would undoubtedly solve the region’s worst-in-the-country power situation on one hand and that of the entire country on the other. Closely aligned to power generation is the manufacturing sector, and for a region that borders four other countries there are few better places to cite a manufacturing hub for high export gains and extended market opportunities.
Why are we not talking on massively investing on radically reversing the water loss of the Lake Chad to curb the current high hunger and poverty rates across that region, reignite economic growth and development and put more people to work than planning on draining the huge sums of money in search for oil- a venture that is at best, mere gambling?
For the first time in my writing, let me talk as a well-trained geologist because it is only by inquiring on the basic, yet elemental geologic dynamics of the Chad Basin area of Nigeria that one can be able to say for certain if the “parameters” for oil occurrence in that basin is fully met and then persuade our politicians to simply stay away from issues of oil search in the basin and others adjacent to it including Bauchi Basin leaving it for the experts to handle.
The magic parameters for oil occurrence in any basin, as we were taught in undergraduate petroleum geology are the concurrent existence of these factors: the source rock, the reservoir rock, migration pathway, geothermal temperature and traps which could be structural or stratigraphic.
Pure geology has it that the stratigraphic sequence (rock arrangement) of the Chad Basin ensued from the unconformable deposition of the Cenomanian Bima Sandstone over the Pre-Cambrian Basement Complex rocks. Atop the Bima Sandstone is the Turonian Gongila Formation, succeeded by the Senonian Fika Shales, which is also in turn succeeded by the Maestrichtian to Pleistocene Gombe Sandstone, Keri-Keri Formation and Chad Formation in that order.
Without doubt, the Chad Basin, where only one-tenth of its area lie in Nigeria offers possible source rocks, reservoir rocks and migration/structural pathway. Fika Shales is a likely source rock, and its immediate succession, Gombe Sandstone, could serve as a tremendous reservoir rock. The large scale Cretaceous folds in the form of anticlinal and synclinal folds—thanks to geophysical survey data from the area could make encouraging traps for the occurrence of oil. More so the depth at which Gombe Sandstone is supposedly located around the Lake Chad area could give enough geothermal temperature of 120-150 degrees centigrade which supports oil formation.
Before now, The NNPC has generated over 30,000 well logs scanned and vectorised. Also, 23 exploratory wells have been drilled. However, all the wells turned out to be a harvest of “dry holes.” Only two of the wells, Wadi-1 and Kinasar encountered non- commercial gas that could best be described as “flashes.”
Agreed it is very unprofessional (geologically) to be categorical that there is no oil in our portion of the Chad Basin as there is a possibility that we may find oil in commercial quantity in the region because of the discoveries of commercial hydrocarbon deposits in neighboring countries of Chad, Niger, and Sudan which have similar structural settings with the Nigerian portion of the Chad Basin.
However, you cannot wish geology into place, no matter the amount of politics or supplications to God in the churches or mosques. That we have portions of Chad Basins in Nigeria does not mean oil must be in our own section. Even in the oil-bearing geologic Niger Delta, it is not all sections of the region that bear oil notwithstanding that they all have in full the same stratigraphic setting of Akata (source rock); Agbada (reservoir rock); and Benin Formations.
This venture as far as all descent-minded Nigerians are concerned is a misplaced priority even to the affected region but politicians would not agree with this because they don’t know. So it is the duty of the experts particularly the NNPC people to educate some of our politicians on this.
Up till now, what can the Northern Nigeria Development Company (NNDC) say they have achieved in the oil bloc ‘OPL 809’ assigned to them apart from leveraging on politicking with some flashes of “gas shows” discovered elsewhere by Shell Frontiers in other concessions outside our portion of the basins both Chad and Bauchi?
When are we going to start facing everyday issues that are pressing our people and stop this unnecessary politicking with everything that makes us look an unserious country in the eyes of the outside world? God bless Nigeria!
(IFEANYI IZEZE lives in Abuja: [email protected]; 234-8033043009)