* Chevron selling five onshore oil blocks
* NNPC warns buyers may not get right to operate them
By Tim Cocks
LAGOS, Sept 5 Nigeria's state oil company warned
investors interested in three shallow water oil blocks offered
for sale by Chevron that buyers may lose the right to
U.S.-based Chevron is selling minority stakes in joint
ventures that operate five oil blocks. The majority owner is the
Nigeria National Petroleum Corporation (NNPC).
Nigeria wants more direct ownership of its oil and gas
through NNPC or local firms, leading several oil majors
including Chevron to dispose of assets in Africa's top oil and
NNPC published a notice in local newspapers on Thursday
saying that there had been a "recent high level of interest
shown by various investors in the ongoing divestment programme
for OMLs 52, 53 and 55 by Chevron Nigeria".
It reminded those considering investing that, although
Chevron currently operates the blocks, the state oil firm has
the right to take over the operatorship as majority shareholder.
Chevron owns 40 percent of the blocks and NNPC 60 percent.
"Chevron shall cease to be the operator upon assignment of
their participating interest," it said. "Therefore prospective
buyers should note that automatic operatorship does not come
with the acquisition of any of these blocks."
Not having operatorship poses significant risks for would be
investors in the fields, not least that the NNPC's development
subsidiary, NPDC, lacks the finance and expertise. It has
usually had to call in a third-party operator anyway.
The notice seemed calculated to avoid messy tussles that
ensued when Shell sold some oil blocks two years ago.
In that case, the buyers, including Poland's Kulczk Oil
Ventures, UK-based Heritage Oil and independent energy
firm Eland Oil, thought they had also purchased Shell's
But NNPC, as majority owner, handed management of the fields
to its subsidiary, saying it wanted to increase the amount of
oil it produces and not give away rights to other companies.
Chevron's share of a total of five blocks it is selling
amounts to reserves of 200 million to 250 million barrels of
crude and condensate, two oil industry sources have said. At
least some of the blocks are already producing.
Analysts say that when NNPC contracts out the operating of
blocks, such a move is a potential avenue for corruption.
In May, for example, lawmakers probed contracts in which the
NPDC gave two local firms with no previous operating experience
lucrative deals to operate blocks that it lacked the capacity to
run, with no competitive bidding.
Uncertainty surrounding the investment climate and rampant
oil theft have shrunk Nigeria's production to below 2 million
barrels per day. In recent months, oil exports from the OPEC
member have been the lowest since 2009, when a militant
rebellion was at its peak, according to central bank data.