Nigeria can benefit from Europe’s energy crisis – SPE boss

Felix Chijioke Obike is the chairman of the Society for Petroleum Engineers (SPE) Nigeria Council, with over 31 years of industry and academic experience garnered while working for Shell Nigeria and Abu Dhabi National Oil Company, among others; he currently works for Seplat Energy Plc. In this interview with ‘FEMI ASU, he speaks on the global energy transition, how Nigeria’s oil industry can attract funding, and the upcoming Oloibiri Lecture Series and Energy Forum, among other issues.

In light of the global shift towards clean energy, do you think Nigeria should put more efforts towards growing its oil and gas reserves or focus on diversifying away from fossil fuels?

There should be long-term and short-term goals. For the short-term goal, like in the next 30 years, the answer is yes; Nigeria should put in more effort towards growing her reserves and at the same time delving into new technologies that drive emission reduction or total elimination. Nigeria could focus on diversifying away from fossil fuels in the long term, but we are not there now.

The Nigerian oil and gas industry is struggling to attract funding. Why is funding a major challenge for the industry, and what is the way out of it?

Funding oil and gas-related businesses has been a challenge in recent times simply because of the outcome of COP21, which erroneously placed reliance on alternative energy sources other than oil and gas. This led many international oil companies to sell their foreign assets. However, the recent global energy crisis has reawakened the exploration and production business, especially with gas, which is a transition fuel.

One of the ways to solve this challenge is by communicating the right information about the energy trilemma. By trilemma, I mean the need to find the balance between energy reliability, affordability, and sustainability and their impact on our everyday lives. The right information should invoke investors’ confidence.

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What is your outlook for the energy transition in Nigeria and other African countries?

In the short term, Africa and Nigeria are not going to transition away from oil and gas. Rather, there would be a transition away from emissions. Technologies, processes, and frameworks are emerging to take care of carbon dioxide and methane emissions and also harness them for safer use.

We are located in areas with substantial solar intensity, and as such, in the long term, Nigeria and Africa would witness a more advanced energy mix with a very diminished dominance of fossil fuels and an increased footprint of solar power. Africa is expected to be powered by alternative energy sources.

At least in the next 50 years, oil and gas will dominate the global energy mix, and that means those with the majority of oil assets are still in good business.

In less than three months, the country will have a change of government; what can the next administration focus on immediately to boost the growth of Nigeria’s oil and gas industry?

In my view, the energy crisis in Europe has created a very high demand for alternative gas sources in Europe, and the incoming administration could harness this opportunity as a money spinner to revamp the economy and the oil and gas industry.

There is still a future for fossil fuels. However, there would be advanced technologies emerging to tackle emissions and the traditional exploration and production processes.

What advice does the SPE Nigeria Council have for the government regarding policies and regulations to actualise the country’s energy transition plan?

For Nigeria, the already established Petroleum Industry Act should be allowed to run smoothly, with room for adjustments as circumstances demand, in accordance with changing global best practices and local energy outlook.

What are the primary goals of the SPE Nigeria Council in organizing the annual Oloibiri Lecture Series and Energy Forum (OLEF)?

Oloibiri Lecture Series and Energy Forum is an annual lecture series focused on contributing to oil and gas policy development for Nigeria in commemoration of the first oil well drilled in Nigeria by Shell Darcy at Oloibiri, in Ogbia, Bayelsa State, in 1956. The first edition was in 1991.

The upcoming SPE OLEF 2023 is focusing on effective gas resources utilisation. Could that be SPE Nigeria’s way of pushing the energy transition agenda?

Yes, it is. OLEF is one of several SPE events held in Nigeria, and SPE uses these events to highlight areas of concern in the industry both globally and locally, as well as to express our position. The vision of SPE is to “advance the oil and gas producing and related energy communities’ ability to meet the world’s energy needs in a safe, secure, and sustainable manner”, and all these are embedded in the vision.

What key factors differentiate the SPE from its industry peers?

The extent of dissemination of technical knowledge and the availability of technical materials to SPE members make us stand out in the delivery of our day-to-day tasks. The quality of the leadership and soft skills that are acquired through SPE volunteerism compares to no other training institution in Nigeria. SPE also creates great networking opportunities for businesses and careers.

In SPE, we are very innovative. Over the last decade, there has been a significant increase in and flexibility in how we communicate with our members and the industry. Several events and activities are targeting our industry, the government, associated industries, academia, future leaders, and the very young ones in primary and secondary schools with energy-centric information.