When Shell D’Arcy (now Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited) announced on 15 January 1956 that it had discovered oil in commercial quantity Oloibiri (in present-day Bayelsa State), it opened a new vista for Nigeria. There was a geometric shift from an agrarian economy to a petro-million dollar economy as international oil companies (IOCs) flooded into Nigeria with the blessings of the soon-to-be-departing colonial administration.
These foreign companies initially concentrated their business interests in the upstream sector of the petroleum industry (companies that search for deposits of oil or gas (exploration) and then its extraction through drilling or other methods). Some of them later diversified their interests and began being active in the downstream sector (companies that supply consumers with petroleum products), doing business alongside already established oil suppliers in the country. As the years went by, Nigerian companies emerged and began contributing their quota to the development of the industry, both in the upstream and downstream sectors of the oil industry.
There are over 100 oil and gas companies currently operating in Nigeria. Below is a list of the top oil companies operating in the country in both the upstream and downstream sectors.
This piece cannot do without recognising Nigeria’s national oil company, the Nigerian National Petroleum Company (NNPC) Limited. The organisation – known at its inception as the Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation – was created in April 1977 and is mandated by law to ensure Nigeria’s national energy security in all sectors of the petroleum industry, whether in the upstream or downstream sector. The company is the sole importer of petroleum into the country.
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However, the organisation was reformed to NNPC Limited in July 2022, following the Petroleum Industry Act (PIA) signing into law. With the PIA, the organisation has transited from a state-owned company to a limited liability company. The NNPC now operates as a self-sufficient, profitable commercial entity that declares dividends to its shareholders.
Shell Companies in Nigeria (SCiN)- as the company is officially known – is the oldest petroleum and energy company that has operated in Nigeria. Shell began operations in the country in 1937 and has played a key role in onshore, shallow, and deep water oil exploration and production.
As earlier mentioned, the company was the first to discover oil in the country in commercial quantity in 1956 and produced the country’s first commercial oil exports in 1958. It also has been at the forefront of gas development, producing and delivering gas to domestic consumers and export markets for over 40 years.
As of 2014, Shell-operated ventures in Nigeria produced an average of 739,000 barrels of oil equivalent per day (boe/d), with 578,000 boe/d from the Shell Petroleum Development Company Joint Venture (SPDC JV) and 161,000 from the Shell Nigeria Exploration and Production Company (SNEPCo). Shell Nigeria Gas (SNG) supplies natural gas to 85 industrial customers, and the SPDC JV is the major gas supplier to Nigeria LNG. SPDC’s Afam VI power plant supplied approximately 18 per cent of the nation’s grid-connected electricity.
Better known to Nigerians as Mobil, the company started operations in Nigeria in 1955 and today is one of the largest oil producers in the country. ExxonMobil Nigeria is the second largest producer of crude oil in Nigeria, as it reportedly produces 500,000 BPD, and the majority of its operations are offshore.
The company’s upstream affiliates operating in Nigeria are Mobil Producing Nigeria Unlimited (MPN) and Esso Exploration and Production Nigeria Ltd. (EEPNL). The company also operates through a joint venture operation with the government-owned NNPC. Asides from exploration and production, the company is involved in the marketing of petroleum products, as evidenced by the spread of retail outlets across the country.
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Chevron is quite popular in Nigeria, particularly in Lagos State, and the bus stop around its Corporate Office in the Lekki area of the state is referred to as the “Chevron Bus stop.” Chevron Nigeria Limited, a subsidiary of the American Chevron Corporation, is one of the largest daily oil producers in Nigeria.
The company operates under a joint-venture arrangement with the NNPC for the onshore and offshore assets in the Niger Delta region. It operates the Agbami Field, one of Nigeria’s largest deepwater discoveries, and a non-operated interest in the Usan Field. Overall, Chevron has varied interests in Nigeria’s three operated and six non-operated deepwater blocks.
Chevron is also involved in natural gas projects in the western Niger Delta and Escravos areas, including the Escravos Gas Plant (EGP), the Escravos Gas-to-Liquids (EGTL) facility, and the Sonam Field Development Project.
TotalEnergies has been active in Nigeria for more than 60 years in oil and gas exploration and production, and natural gas liquefaction, as well as through our retail activities. The company began operations in Nigeria in 1956 with oil exploration. It is one of the companies that operate a joint venture with the NNPC, owning a 10 per cent stake in the venture.
The French-founded company has a wide distribution network of about 580 oil stations in the country, making it one of the biggest companies in the downstream sector. Recently, the company has diversified its interests, moving to renewables, electricity, and green gas. TotalEnergies launched the first sole solar-powered retail station in the Onigbagbo area of Ikeja, the Lagos State capital.
Nigerian Agip Oil Company (Eni)
The Nigerian Agip Oil Company (NAOC) is a subsidiary of Eni S.p.A., an Italian multinational oil, and gas company headquartered in Rome. The NAOC operates in the onshore and offshore areas of the Niger Delta, equipped with a 10 per cent stake in a joint venture with the NNPC. Its exploration and production occur in the states of Imo, Delta, Rivers, and Bayelsa.
Eni has a long history in Nigeria, operating in the country since 1962. In addition to the NAOC, Eni has two other subsidiaries operating in Nigeria – Agip Energy and Natural Resources (AENR) and Nigerian Agip Exploration (NAE). As of 2020, the company’s average production was 131 kilo barrels of oil equivalent. It reportedly has over 40 mining leases that allow them to carry out exploration and production operations in different oil zones in Nigeria.
Aiteo Group is an integrated, global-focused Nigerian energy conglomerate, which is the successor entity to Sigmund Communnecci Limited. It initially began operations in 1999, with the downstream sector its focus as it operated a petroleum storage terminal in Abonemma Wharf, Rivers State.
Following the re-organisation of the company in 2008, the company diversified its focus on oil and gas exploration and production. In 2014, Aiteo bid for and acquired Shell’s OML29 and Nembe Creek Trunk Line for $2.7 billion. With its acquisition of Royal Dutch Shell Plc’s 30 per cent stake, as well as Total SA of France and Eni of Italy’s minority stake in OML29 and the Nembe Creek Trunk Line, Aiteo holds the controlling 45 per cent stake in both assets, for which it paid $569 million for Total SA’s stake.
Equinor, formerly known as Statoil, has been active in Nigeria since 1992 and played a significant role in developing the country’s biggest deepwater field, Agbami. Equinor also operates two exploration licences—OMLs 128 and 129—with a 53.85% share in both. Six wells have been drilled in both, with two discoveries made.
The company’s daily equity production was 26,000 BPD, as of 2021. It has drilled 10 wells with a 40 per cent discovery rate and invested more than $3.5 billion in the country. The company is also a supplier of refined products in Nigeria.
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Addax Petroleum began operations in Nigeria in 1998 by signing two Production Sharing Contracts (PSCs) with the NNPC. Addax, which became a subsidiary of the Chinese-based Sinopec Group in 2009, is primarily focused on the upstream sector, with its production assets comprising 11 field complexes with around 80 production wells in concession OML123, two fields with 15 producing wells in concession OML 124 and two fields with 17 production wells in concession OML126.
Nexen Petroleum Nigeria Limited
Nexen Petroleum is a subsidiary of CNOOC Limited, a Chinese company. It has a 20 per cent working interest in Usan and is developing the oil field alongside Esso E&P Nigeria (Offshore East) Limited. It also has a 45 per cent operating stake for the OML130 block found around 150 kilometers off the shoreline of Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Other companies worthy of mention include:
- Hardy Plc
- Oando Plc
- Sahara Group
- South Atlantic Petroleum (SAPETRO)
- Conoil Plc
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