If you’re going to work in the oil business in Nigeria, you had better buckle your chinstrap and get ready for some rough experiences.
That is the advice of Permian Basin International Oil Show President Larry Richards of Odessa, who worked there in the early 1990s and has kept up with the scene since then.
“Nigeria is the wild, wild West of the oil industry,” Richards said Thursday. “In my opinion, it’s historically the most corrupt and dangerous place that it’s legal for U.S. companies to operate in.”
Richards worked for a company that sold all the oil pipeline pumps to the Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria.
“There were better technology quintuplex pumps for the application, but they bought old 1950s-designed cast iron duplex pumps simply because they were impossible to destroy unless you literally put explosives in the pump case,” he said. “The military factions fighting the government could shoot or even bomb those old cast iron units and nine times out of 10 they’d keep right on slowly moving oil down the pipeline.”
Supervising EMSCO’s parts and field service departments, he said field service techs were sent out once a year to evaluate the equipment in the field.
“Security folks met us at the airport with passwords because the bad guys would whack a security guy in the parking lot, take his hat, badge and your name card and meet unsuspecting U.S. travelers in the airport. Talk about the start of a bad day!
“Over a three-year period, two of my service techs had guns put to their heads at so-called military checkpoints and one had the muzzle of an AK-47 put in his mouth after he refused to give them his cash,” Richards said.
Richards subsequently applied those lessons to his own businesses by “making it a point never to send a man or woman somewhere I wouldn’t go myself,” he said.
“As both my companies had a startup and service element to them, that means I haven’t done a project in Nigeria in 20 years,” he said. “I’ve been in the field in Angola, Venezuela, Libya, Kuwait, Colombia and a slew of other rough places, but Nigeria is unique in its business challenges.”
Richards’ companies were Hy-Bon Engineering and Van Zandt Controls. He is retired.
Nigeria, a longtime OPEC member in West Africa, had a quota of 1.88 million barrels per day for this year but only achieved 51.3 percent of that from January through August, according to the Nigerian Upstream Petroleum Regulatory Commission.
On its website, the Shell Petroleum Development Co. of Nigeria, which works in concert with the Nigerian National Petroleum Corp., said its goals are deep water exploration and production in the Gulf of Guinea, where the renewal of its license for 20 years “has opened up further opportunities.” Shell also want to expand the gas supply and distribution network within Nigeria and to international markets.
“These ambitions align with Shell’s Powering Progress Strategy and support Nigeria’s vision to provide reliable, affordable power to its people,” Shell Nigeria said. “In 2021, Nigeria continued to receive the largest concentration of social investment in Shell.
“Our healthcare and education programs helped thousands more people over the last year. We continue to work to bring energy to off-grid communities through All On, our not-for-profit impact investment company, and we will continue to clean up oil spills despite challenges arising from the illegal actions of third parties such as sabotage and crude oil theft.
“The cleanup and remediation in the Ogoniland community of Bodo has made solid progress with 60 percent of the area remediated and 300,000 mangrove seedlings planted,” according to the website.