NNPC to take over operatorship of oil blocks sold by Shell

State-owned Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation has said it has assumed the operatorship of the Niger Delta oil blocks from which Shell had divested its interest, citing an existing agreement between the two companies

Shell sold its 30 per cent stake in three onshore oil blocks in 2009 and is also in the process of completing divestment in four others, in which it operated in partnership with Total, Eni and NNPC.

But NNPC said that by virtue of a clause in the joint operating agreement it entered into with Shell, it automatically assumes the operatorship of the blocks Shell had disposed off.

"Therefore prospective buyers should note that automatic operatorship does not come with the acquisition of any of these relinquished blocks," NNPC said in a statement.

NNPC holds a 55 per cent stake in the affected oil leases OMLs 4, 38 and 41 (already sold to Seplat Petroleum) as well as OMLs 30, 34, 40 and 42 put on offer this year.
In April, Shell agreed a deal with Elcrest Exploration and Production, the joint venture between Eland and Starcrest, to buy the 45 per cent interest in OML 40 owned jointly with Total and Eni.

Concluding agreements

Shell is also concluding agreements with local firm Conoil Producing and Polish/Nigerian consortium Neconde, to transfer its stakes in OMLs.

Industry analysts said the latest development over the Shell divestment plan, might not be unconnected with NNPC's bid for its exploration and production subsidiary, the Nigerian Petroleum Development Co. to acquire the assets, some of which hold over 300 million barrels of proven oil reserves, without participating in the rigorous bidding process.

The NNPC knows that the NPDC cannot match the bids by companies seeking the blocks, hence the decision to invoke the clause in the joint operating agreement, one official said.

Bids for the largest block in the basket, OML 42 coveted by NNPC - have exceeded $1bn, some sources said, all but leaving the cash-strapped NNPC uncompetitive.

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