But for providence and the determination to survive which propelled the management the much celebrated achievement of Niger Delta Exploration and Production, the company would have been nothing but failure.
The company had a startup it had conceived: it wanted to go into marginal oil field development. They had actually got an oil field they could develop but could not get presidential approval during the regime General Sani Abacha. It was a period of death to come because the promoters were not able to do anything yet they had shareholders that believed in what they are doing and have put money done.
Then came Goddy Ibru, an entrepreneur of great intellect who had a group of about twelve other investors behind him. With his intervention the company set into action to develop the field and today it is history.
Chevron had given them a marginal oil field but the problem was funding. To raise money, the promoters of the company had to engage in hawking or street conversing for the shares of the company, according to Layi Fatona, managing director of the company.
The managing director who spoke at the May 2019 technical meeting organised by the Nigerian Association of Petroleum Explorationists (NAPE) who spoke on the journey of the company since it started, said the marginal oil field, Ogbele, given to the company by chevron had a reserve of just five million barrels then but had grown to almost 50 million barrels by 2019 and was still counting.
After suffering so many disappointments especially while trying to raise money to develop the field coupled with the death of Aret Adams, the chief promoter of the company, in 2002, it eventually recorded a breakthrough in 2005 when it struck the first oil.
When Niger Delta Exploration and Production Plc started planning for Ogbelle, the oil price was $ 12 per barrel. “Then we ran our number up to $20 saying if oil price got $22 or $23 dollars per barrel, at that level we would be able to pay our debt of $ 6 million. This was the strength and the character that allowed the company to be bold enough to take a $ 6 million loans. By the time the company was able to get to first production oil price was at $54”, said Layi Fatona .
He said that at the beginning the company was battling with all sorts of problems, gas flaring had become a challenge. It then decide it was going to invest in gas, it negotiated first gas purchase agreement with Shell and commenced gas pipeline of 20 kilometres and delivered it first gas in 2012 to buyers.
The gas challenge turned into an opportunity for the company as it was enable to diversified it revenue base while still dealing with so much security. The gas curves he said turned the company around.
For small companies like NDEP Plc there was life beyond oil production as its model of field integrated concept came a life at Ogbele.
Beyond first oil at Ogbele the company grew reserves from five million by drilling additional nine wells thereby adding more to it reserve. Just a few days ago, the company completed well 11 in Ogbele.
One interesting thing about the field is that field had no gas reserve when Chevron handed it over to the company but today it is carrying gas of half Tcf
Layi Fatona said : “I believe every marginal field has the potentials and prospects like Ogbele. You can imagine if every marginal field turns out to be like this, then what the prospect for Nigerian petroleum industry would be. This can only be if we can get everything right, such as safe environment where people can work, funding in place, develop our own human capital and make sure we can do all the right things. I can see the story of the Nigerian petroleum industry good to go”.
Today, the company is contributing highly to the domestic gas supply through Escravos-Lagos Gas pipeline as its gas comes to Lagos and the West African Gas pipeline. It has metamorphosed into fully integrated oil company as there is Niger Delta Resources, ND Western, have fully commercialise its gas resources, there is ND Gas,
The company and two others have taken a shot at drilling first shallow offshore well. For the first time as a company, it can claim it has booked reserves that are sitting in offshore domain. This is very remarkable of the story of the company.
As at the beginning of May 2019 the company produced about 15 million barrels of oil from Ogbele. This is three hundred times the reserve in place when Chevron gave the block to Niger Delta Petroleum Resources. It has produced 81.5 billion standard cubic feet of gas, which it is supplying to the Nigeria Natural Gas Limited.